Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features smoke plumes from more than 175 active fires in the Republic of Sakha in eastern Russia.
The fires broke out across the region as soon as the snow began melting in May 2021. By the time this photo was captured on August 8, fires had consumed large areas of the region’s larch forests.
The large clouds of smoke that are visible in the image have been common for weeks. According to NASA, smoke blanketed the skies, turning day into night, closing airports, and prompting talk of an “airpocalypse” in the city of Yakutsk.
Mark Parrington, a scientist with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, reports that the 2021 Sakha wildfires have set a record for estimated carbon emissions for the period from June 1 to August 1.
“Based on current official burned area reports, Sakha is on track to have an extreme year of fire, but it won’t surpass previous extreme years if the fires are extinguished by the end of August,” said Jessica McCarty, an Earth scientist at Miami University. “If large fire events continue into September and October, we could see burned area totals surpassing 2020.”
According to the researchers, climate change is likely playing a role in how fire seasons in Sakha are changing.
“There have always been large fires in Siberia. It is a landscape evolved to burn,” said McCarty. “What is different because of climate change is that fires are burning larger areas, affecting places farther to the north, and consuming fuels that would have been more fire resistant in the past.”
The image was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite
Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory