Greenland Experiencing An “Exceptional Number” Of Wildfires This Year

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Parts of Greenland are on fire right now. Which is impressive when you consider that almost all of the massive body of land is covered by an enormous ice sheet. Apparently, wildfires aren’t unknown in Greenland, but they are very rare.

What’s interesting here, though, is that it appears they are becoming more common, and 2017 has been a breakout year as far as numbers go. It should probably be remembered here that wildfires release soot, and soot, when deposited on ice sheets or snow, greatly increases the speed at which it melts. …

Since forests are for the most part non-existent in Greenland as of right now, the wildfires have been burning through various grasses, shrubs, willows, etc. Despite this being the case, the largest of the current wildfires has reportedly burned through at least around 3,000 acres and managed to send smoke at least a mile up into the sky — resulting in hiking and hunting closures in the area.

Most of the current wildfires are burning (somewhat) near the town of Kangerlussuaq — which functions as a base camp of sorts for researchers working in the area during the summer (providing access to the ice sheet, amongst other things).

Image by Pierre Markuse (some rights reserved)

Climate Central provides more: “Data for Greenland fires is hard to come by, but there is some context for fires in other parts of the northern tier of the world. The boreal forest sprawls across Canada, Russia, Alaska, and northern Europe, and provides a longer-term record for researchers to dig into. That record shows that the boreal forest is burning at a rate unprecedented in the past 10,000 years.

“Stef Lhermitte, a remote sensing expert at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, said there is evidence of fires burning in Greenland over the past 17 years of MODIS satellite records kept by NASA.”

With that in mind, this tweet of his is informative:

In related news, a recent study discovered that much of what had been assumed to be dust and/or soot darkening the Greenland ice sheet, and thus increasing the speed at which it melts, is actually biological in origin. In other words, growth of microbial life on the ice sheet in Greenland is increasing its ability to absorb heat, and thus increasing the speed at which it melts.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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