The match is lightning. The gasoline is the rich, peat-like fuel we still call tundra even as it is thawing and drying out. Beneath the tundra lies permafrost that holds massive amounts of greenhouse gases, both CO2 and methane.
We're all familiar with lightning and thunderstorms. They're pretty common in our latitudes with our warm and humid atmosphere. What makes them common at our latitude is what has made them extremely rare in the northern latitudes of the Arctic. Until now.
The US National Weather Service in Alaska has detected lightning at the north pole.
The lightning at the North Pole was observed after climate experts have spent weeks recording higher-than-average temperatures in the Arctic. The warming globe is causing sea ice in the region to disappear at a higher rate than ever recorded, as Common Dreams reported last month. The melting ice in turn is contributing to a warmer Arctic.
As the Washington Post reported, the lighting denotes "that the atmosphere near the pole was unstable enough, with sufficient warm and moist air in the lower atmosphere, to give rise to thunderstorms."
"The probability of this kind of event occurring would increase as the sea ice extent retreats farther and farther north in the summertime," Alex Young, a meteorologist with the NWS in Fairbanks, told Wired.
Before the lightning was recorded, climate scientists were concerned about wildfires that have been burning in Greenland for more than a month.
"The lightning strikes near the North Pole come during one of the most extreme Arctic ice melt years on record," the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang tweeted, summarizing meteorologists' alarm over recent weather in the planet's far northern region. "There's currently no sea ice in Alaskan waters, and Arctic-wide sea ice is plummeting to one of the five lowest levels on record."
...UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain warned that lightning strikes in the Arctic could be part of a new pattern of climate changes as the planet's sea ice continue to melt.
"Scientists already knew the Arctic was going to change much more rapidly than the rest of the world, and yet we've still been surprised at the rate of change we've been observing," Swain told Wired. "I think there's potential for nasty surprises coming out of the Arctic."This summer has also witnessed the spread of wildfires deep inside the Arctic Circle. A small amount of smoke from fires in Siberia reached British Columbia.