With Portugal recently declaring high alert over wildfire, the trend of forest fires and bush fires in the world has changed due to several developments.
Crux of the Matter
Portugal has declared ‘high alert’ over massive wildfire occurring in the country. While the fire started from the municipality of Oleiros, it has now spread to neighbouring regions. While large scale evacuation has been done, experts have claimed that the fire is “still small” compared to that of 2017 in the same region, in which 66 people died and 250+ were injured.
More than 300 wildfires have been recorded in Siberia of the Arctic in July 2020. In the summer of this year, an area of 3 million hectares had been reported as ‘burning’. Russia even attempted to bring rains to the region using the “cloud seed technique”.
High temperatures have been cited as the contributing factor to the fires. The temperature of 38°C was recorded beyond the Arctic circle in 2020 – the highest temperature in the region ever. “Permafrost”, the frozen lands of the region, have been melting as per the reports. The recent ‘Norilsk’ oil spill reportedly occurred due to the melting of the permafrost, on which the plant was based.
Wildfire was reported in late 2019 and early 2020 in Australia, with 18 million hectares of the area being affected by the burning. 30 people died due to the fires, while 3 billion animals like kangaroos, koalas, sea lions, etc. died or were displaced. Lightning strikes, drought in some regions, and increased temperature of the country have been cited as possible reasons.
A massive fire occurred in the Amazon forests in 2019, with 906,000 hectares of forest getting burnt. Slash & burn of trees has been cited as a possible cause, with the deforestation of the region facilitating the process. Forest fires occur annually in the Amazon, but the records have shown an 84% increase in forest fires in 2019 as compared to 2018.
Causes & Stats
Global warming, decrease in soil moisture, and an increase in drought have been cited as causes for the increase in wildfires across the world. Recent research in the US has claimed that an increase of 1°C in the annual temperature increases the median burned area of forests by 600% per year.
- The Rim Fire was a massive wildfire that started in a remote canyon in Stanislaus National Forest, in California. The fire was caused by a hunter’s illegal fire that got out of control, and it was named for its proximity to the Rim of the World vista point, a scenic overlook on Highway 120 leading up to Yosemite.
- The first evidence of wildfires is rhyniophytoid plant fossils preserved as charcoal, discovered in the Welsh Borders, dating to the Silurian period (about 420 million years ago). Smoldering surface fires started to occur sometime before the Early Devonian period 405 million years ago.
- A controlled or prescribed burn is a fire set intentionally for purposes of forest management, farming, prairie restoration or greenhouse gas abatement. A controlled burn may also refer to the intentional burning of slash and fuels through burn piles.
- Euronews – High temperatures, melting ice and wildfires combine for unprecedented Arctic summer
- Reuters – Portugal on high alert as firefighters battle blaze
- UN News – Dramatic Arctic fires and sea ice melt, show need for urgent climate action
- Al Jazeera – Nearly 3 billion animals killed or displaced by Australia fires
- BBC – Amazon fires increase by 84% in one year – space agency