Burning Up Our Future: Record fires are burning the Siberian boreal and Amazon forests

We are recording the global climate change killing of the living Earth. 

Massive fires are burning in the Amazon and the Arctic for the second record year in a row. Judging from the NASA FIRMS satellite world fire map, 1,500 miles of fires are burning right across the Amazon, and fires are burning across 6,000 miles of the Siberian Arctic. Nothing about global warming is so definite, so visible and so terrible as the burning of these great forests.

Global fire map August 2020

Largely due to deforestation, we are already in the 6th mass extinction. Now with these unprecedented fires, an unfathomable number of wild creatures are being burned alive and their homes burnt down.

NASA FIRMS stands for Fire Information for Resource Management System. The only resource “management” is the criminal mismanagement of the forests and the planet. By keeping atmospheric carbon in balance, the Amazon and Boreal forests (used to) maintain the climate that supports the great diversity of life, and our agricultural civilization. 

 2020 is bound to be a new record year for fires in both great forests. Global surface heating from greenhouse gas emissions are burning up the planet.

Yet today there is no international response to save the Amazon, nor our planet. There is no public outcry, and seemingly no remorse. When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, global heating denial wins.

The Covid-19 temporary global emissions drop makes no difference. Atmospheric CO2, mainly from fossil fuel emissions (and from deforestation), to this day is still accelerating and just recently reported cumulative atmospheric CO2 is tracking the very worst-case scenario. Despite the Covid-19 lockdown, 2020 CO2 will be another massive increase in cumulative CO2 emissions (marginally less than in 2019), making no difference to accelerating atmospheric CO2 and ocean acidification.

August is the start of the fire season, but the Amazon was already burning in July and today (8th August) fires cover almost the lower half of the Amazon, which I have never seen before from watching the NASA FIRMS world fire map every year. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reported 6,803 fires in the Amazon (rainforest) in July 2020 alone, nearly 30% more than July 2019.  

Last year, 2019, was a record year for Amazon fires. Last year fires could be seen spreading up from the south further than ever, but also right around the Amazon, consuming the forest. The INPE said its 2019 satellite data of the Amazon showed an 84% increase from the same period in 2018. This year is already certain to be even worse – 2020 will be a new record year for burning up the Amazon.

NASA satellites last year showed the record fires were associated with water-stressed vegetation, increased water vapor deficit, and low ground water. Global surface heating is drying out the Amazon rainforest, and fires are being set following the felling of the great trees for more cattle and cattle feed. Recent research finds the Amazon at or near its tipping point. With the Amazon drying and fires increasing by the year, the Amazon has to be at or past its tipping threshold for total die-back collapse.

This is a massive carbon feedback. The future under the world economy and political corruption will be one of Amazon fires emitting more and more CO2, methane and black carbon, then the collapse of the great rainforest leading to many more emissions, and finally no Amazon forest left to soak up CO2.

In the Siberian Arctic, six months of record-breaking temperatures have sparked unprecedented massive fires this year. These fires are not intentionally set. Global warming is drying the Boreal and with record high temperatures, lightning strikes set the forest ablaze. Nevertheless, the Siberian fires are global warming feedback impacts.

Fires visible from the NASA FIRMS site stretch right across Arctic Siberia, which (again) I have never seen before, and they are larger than ever. These fires include carbon-rich peatlands releasing CO2 as extra feedback emissions. They are also burning over Siberian permafrost, causing more thawing and more carbon to be emitted, again as feedback emissions. The circumpolar boreal forest holds even more carbon than the Amazon. Climate science says the boreal is also subject to a mass die-back from drying and burning, like the Amazon.

Great plumes of smoke from Siberia are visible from satellites, with temperatures more than 5°C above average over much of the vast region. A (UK) Met Office-led international study has concluded that this period of heat in Siberia would have been totally impossible without the global warming by greenhouse gas emissions. Professor Peter Stott of the Met Office said of the Siberian heat that “what we’re seeing really is unprecedented.”

Today everything about global climate and oceans disruption is unprecedented, including the lack of response to a global emergency. These great forests are two of the enormous sources of global warming feedback emissions, which, if nothing is done about it, can logically only lead to runaway, tipping the whole biosphere into a state of collapse. However, the experts say this is not a certain scenario … yet.  

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