Wednesday, July 18, 2018

It's Wildfire Season - Within the Arctic Circle

The rapidly warming - and drying - Arctic Circle is a terrific feedstock for wildfires. Tundra = frozen peat. Peat = fuel. A bit of lightning - voila.
“This is definitely the worst year in recent times for forest fires. Whilst we get them every year, 2018 is shaping up to be excessive,” said Mike Peacock, a university researcher and local resident. 
There have been huge fires in the past in Sweden, but not over such a wide area. This appears to be a trend as more and bigger blazes are reported in other far northern regions like Greenland, Alaska, Siberia and Canada. 
The sparks come from a variety of sources: BBQs, cigarettes and increasingly lightning, which is becoming more frequent as the planet warms. 
Swedish authorities say the risk of more fires in the days ahead is “extremely high” due to temperatures forecast in excess of 30C. Much of the northern hemisphere has sweltered in unusually hot weather in recent weeks, breaking records from Algeria to California and causing fires from Siberia to Yorkshire. Ukraine has been hit especially hard by wildfires.
It strikes me that there is going to be a big and growing demand for the CL-415 water bomber, the iconic airplane built by Canada and then transferred to Bombardier, the rights to which were acquired two years ago by Viking Air of Sidney, B.C. on Vancouver Island.  Viking is currently working on upgrade kits for the world's fleet of these aircraft and, I'm told, is looking to restart the production line for new water bombers.


Toby said...

I'm sure you remember the Martin JRM Mars. We need water bombers more than those silly F35 war planes.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes indeed, Toby. I saw the last two flying over my home years ago. Then they were down to just two. Haven't seen the surivor in the air for a year, perhaps more.

Trailblazer said...

The Mars bomber 'bombed' because of the shortage of high octane fuel in most areas of north America.
The aircraft consumes huge amounts of fuel that is not readily available in the quantities required for such an aircraft.
It is an impressive aircraft.
One flew over our home many years ago at a height that we could have shaken hands with the pilot.

We,the world,needs a new generation of water bombers as they will be required much more than ever.
Look to the experts!!


Purple library guy said...

I have been thinking that one thing that maybe should be done is plant trees in what was permafrost but is now, climatically, boreal forest. It's invasive, but the existing ecology is toast anyway, those trees would be gradually spreading north anyway so it's just hurrying the process, and maybe it would help stabilize things, keep some of that carbon sequestered.

Toby said...

Were there any losers in this shuffle? Anyone dropped from Cabinet? No longer titled Minister? At first glance this just looks like Trudeau expanded the ranks and payroll mostly to benefit his friends. What's in it for Canada and ordinary Canadians?

I would sure like to have seen McKenna out and replaced by a real Environment Minister. How about Elizabeth May? Yeah, I know she's not in Trudeau's party but so what? We need someone to tackle Global Warming who doesn't put trade and oil first.

Toby said...

Sorry, wrong blog. Google's acting up again.

Jay Farquharson said...


Ever watch "The Last Alaskans"?

Notice how they are surrounded by forest?

Ever google "drunken forest" to see how the melting permafrost is affecting the upper edges of the boreal forest?

Ever goggle "permafrost"?

Every place in the arctic that can grow a tree, does grow a tree. If you want to terraform the taiga into a forest, you are gonna have to start by either hauling away a bajillion tons of granite, or hauling up a bajillion tons of topsoil.

The Mound of Sound said...

Trailblazer, the problem with the Russian aircraft is their size. They need a fairly long stretch of open water to refill. The smaller, lighter, Canadair/Bombardier/Viking CL-415 can operate out of fairly small lakes, the sort you're more likely to find in relative proximity to the target fire. That's why the 415 has been so successful globally.

The Mound of Sound said...

Unfortunately, PLG, Jay is right. Permafrost is essentially gravel, an ancient bed that isn't suitable to bearing the weight of trees much less a forest. Scrub can grow, and it is, but it will take millennia to create actual soil.

The Mound of Sound said...

Toby, the inherent contradiction you pose is May operating as some sort of semi-autonomous super minister of the environment. How would that work in a petro-state such as Canada? She and Trudeau would be at each others' throats from Day One.

Purple library guy said...

So what's all this burning peat, then? Surely it is not, in fact, waterlogged gravel, but instead relatively dry peat.

Jay Farquharson said...

Overtop of the permafrost,

( permafrost is a layer of coarse soil/gravel/sand/peat, that starts about 3-4 feet down, that is "permanently" frozen, because the insulating nature of soil, keeps it from thawing out in summer.

Take a look at your dirt. In winter, the top foot or more of it freezes solid,but 4 feet down, it doesn't freeze. In the arctic however, it froze deep millenia ago, so there, the reverse happens in summer),

is a thick layer of peat, or peaty soil. The harsh confitions of the arctic, means that all the "bugs and bacteria" that turn fallen leaves inyo first compost, then soil, don't exist.

Fallen material that isn't "composted" still decays, but in a anerobic environment. This creates a very slow rate of decay, ( hundreds of years, not just a season or two), highly acidic soil, and banks of peat up to 16 feet deep. Grasses and mosses, which are very acidic condition tolerant, help created the peat layer, because they create as much biomass below ground as above.

Grass created the 16-20 foot thick layer of prairie soil. In the arctic, a similar process created vast belts of peat. In many places in the arctic, walking on the ground in summer, amongst the low bushes, wildflowers, grasses, lichens and mosses, is like walking on a 20 foot thick layer of jello. Everything shake with every footstep.

Adding to the problem, is that peat fires burn underground, can smolder for years, are extremely difficult to put out, and because of the anerobic conditions, pump out vast amounts of pollutants compared to a "normal" forest fire.

The Mound of Sound said...

Peat, in the Arctic, is known as "tundra." With the warming of the high north the peat has been thawing, drying out and, yes, catching fire. Because this can happen in remote areas the fires are often hard to detect and much harder still to fight. These fires then generate a good deal of black soot that winds up on ice caps, accelerating melting, a climate change feedback loop.

Anonymous said...

Trees....don't get me on that subject.....trees are being cut down here in Southern Alberta because they are say...."tall".