© Reuters. On July 12, 2021, a fire truck traveled through the devastated forest to the Jabasnoy satellite in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia. Photos taken with drones. Reuters / Alexei Markovo
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian troops sent firefighters on Tuesday to put out a massive smoky wildfire in Siberian cities, with residents complaining of suffocation in an area known for its frozen tundra, which is now suffocating under heat waves.
Although the fires have spread to about 800,000 hectares of Russian forest, the worst-affected northern part of Yakutia has been in a state of emergency for several weeks as climate scientists have issued warnings of long-term damage.
Meanwhile, a fire in the Chelyabinsk region of central Russia last week killed one person and destroyed dozens of homes in the village.
“We suffocate and our lungs are poisoned by heavy smoke,” Yakutia residents wrote in one of two online petitions to President Vladimir Putin. They asked for additional equipment and power to put out the fire.
In recent years, the annual fire season in Russia has intensified due to unusually high temperatures in the northern Siberian tundra due to climate change.
This year the temperature was record high.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoyuk told a meeting on Tuesday: “The risk of fire has increased significantly in most parts of the country due to the unusual heat wave.” “The most difficult situation is in Yakutia.”
On Tuesday, more than 2,600 firefighters battled a fire in Yakutia, which has been hit by massive wildfires in recent years.
Shoaib said Putin had ordered the defense ministry to assist local officials and that the army had stopped several Ilyushin I-76 jets of water to extinguish the flames in the sky, but did not specify how many planes were dispatched.
Siberian fires have raised concerns about the dissolution of permafrost and charcoal bots, which will release long-term deposits of carbon in the frozen tundra.
At the same time, the ash from the fire will cover the nearby snow, darken, absorb more sunlight and heat up faster.
According to Copernicus Atmospheric Surveillance Service (CAMS) data, wildfires in Yakutia between 2019 and 2020 were part of the EU’s monitoring program that led to the release of record-breaking greenhouse gases in the region.
Mark Barrington, a senior scientist at CAMS, says that in the last six weeks alone, fires in the region have been equivalent to about 150 megatons of carbon dioxide, which is close to Venezuela’s annual fossil fuel emissions of 2017.
“We’re still putting information together and trying to understand what this means for the climate,” he said.
“We haven’t seen many Arctic Circle fires in this area this year, but in the last 3-4 days we’ve started to see a lot of hot spots and a lot of smoke,” Ballrington said.
Despite the spread of forest fires, the country is being caught by a heat wave that has broken many temperature records in Russia. The cooking temperature in Moscow was 33.1 degrees Celsius, the hottest on June 13 in 85 years.
In Siberia, the city of Yakutsk once reached 35 degrees Celsius; According to the National Weather Service, the region is considered one of the coldest places on the planet Vergoyansk, with temperatures hovering above 30 degrees Celsius.
“The temperature is very high, 8 to 10 degrees higher than normal. It is very unusual for temperatures to rise above 30 degrees in the north, ”said Roman Verband, the company’s science director.
Temperatures will drop over the next 7-8 days and rainfall will increase, causing factors to slightly reduce the risk of new fires, however they may prevent the spread of an existing fire.
Similar conditions have occurred in parts of Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
“With climate change, this fire will continue to occur,” said Andrei Sekorev, head of the WWF Russia’s Forest Project Office, which has called for more funding for local fire protection efforts. “The question in this situation is: What should I do?”