With far-north temperatures rising, Alaska tundra fires proliferate

(Reuters News, 22 Jun 2019) Although tundra fires have burned in Alaska in the past, their frequency is increasing as temperatures rise, scientists say.

In Alaska, where sea ice has shrunk to record lows in places and far-north temperatures have climbed to record highs, dozens of fires are burning the treeless tundra and releasing carbon into the atmosphere.

The latest flurry of Alaska tundra fires has been on the Seward Peninsula, which juts out to the Bering Strait.

On Wednesday, lightning strikes sparked 16 fires on the Seward Peninsula, 15 of them burning in tundra, Alaska fire managers reported. That added to several fires already burning there, and several more ignited the following day.

The northernmost Alaska fire, a 200-acre (80-hectare) blaze along northwestern Alaska's Noatak River and about 80 miles (130 km) north of the Arctic Circle, was sparked by lighting on Thursday, fire managers reported.

The large number of tundra fires is pumping smoke over the Bering Strait region and drawing scientists' attention.

At least some of the blame goes to "the very early ice loss and the extraordinarily warm sea surface temperatures," said climatologist Rick Thoman of the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy.

External link

Reuters News, 22 Jun 2019: With far-north temperatures rising, Alaska tundra fires proliferate