Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Climate Change August 09, 2017 - 1:10 pm

It’s fire, not ice in Greenland, as tundra fires sweep across northwest coast

More than 40 fires have broken out in 2017, compared with only 10 last year

JANE GEORGE
Smoke spirals up into the air from a fire near Sisimiut in this photo taken by Air Greenland pilot Lasse Reiding the night between Aug. 3 and Aug. 4.
Smoke spirals up into the air from a fire near Sisimiut in this photo taken by Air Greenland pilot Lasse Reiding the night between Aug. 3 and Aug. 4.
This image posted on Twitter by Deimos-2 shows the Nassuttoq wildlfire in Greenland on Aug. 8.
This image posted on Twitter by Deimos-2 shows the Nassuttoq wildlfire in Greenland on Aug. 8.

Only weeks after a deadly tsunami hit Greenland, the island now faces a new natural disaster: tundra wildfires along its northwest coastline, from Sisimiut to north of Ilulissat.

“We have been going yesterday, all night, and are still running out there,” Bjarne Gregersen, who heads firefighting and emergency services of the Qaasuitsup Municipality told the Sermitsiaq AG news organization during the afternoon of Aug. 8 about a new fire north of Ilulissat.

A second major fire near Sisimiut has been burning for a week at Nassuttoq, 137 kilometres northeast of that town. That fire had burnt over more than 4.25 square km as of Aug. 8, according to a recent fire extent map, and spewing smoke high into the air.

That fire, fed by burning peat, could go on for weeks, experts say.

As of early August, there have been about 40 wildfires in Greenland, four times more than the 10 fires recorded in 2016.

“Wildfires have occurred in the past over Greenland but 2017 is exceptional in number of active fire detections by MODIS (satellite sensors,)” Stef Lhermitte, a satellite remote sensing specialist from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, said on Twitter, where many are tracking the unusual fire season in Greenland.

Commonly seen already in southern Nunavik and the James Bay region, these kinds of naturally-caused fires may become more common in the higher Arctic regions as well.

That’s what the International Panel on Climate Change predicted in its sweeping assessment of climate change that “in most regions, there is likely to be an increased risk of forest fires, resulting in a change in vegetation structure that in turn exacerbates this risk.”

Arctic peat lands, with their layer of decayed vegetation, are known to become more susceptible to fire as they dry out, due to increased temperatures and less precipitation.

But apart from the danger posed by these low-lying fires, there’s an additional risk: as peat burns, it in turn releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

So this means that, with these fires, more climate-warming emissions enter the air. Scientists have already noted an upswing in emissions due to the current wildfires in Greenland.

The wildfires in Greenland are also likely to affect reindeer, by reducing their habitat.

For now, the reindeer can flee to safety—but they may not return to the area.

Christine Cuyler from Pinngortitaleriffik, the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, told Sermitsiaq AG that after similar fires in Canada reindeer did not return to the burned areas, even if the animals had used these before for grazing.

And the fire near Sisimiut, with a population of about 5,000, is already having an impact on the economy by limiting activities popular with tourists,

“Due to a large wildfire and the excess smoke released in the area of Nassuttooq and Amitsorsuaq near Kangerlussuaq, all traffic in the area, including hunting and hiking on the Arctic Circle Trail, are not recommended until further notice,” reads a notice on the Travel Greenland website page for Sisimiut.

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(10) Comments:

#1. Posted by Chicken Little on August 09, 2017

Global warming ,were all goners

#2. Posted by Scotty on Denman on August 09, 2017

No amount of facetiousness can refute the fact of global climate change due to human industry and consumerism.

Here on the West Coast, the warming average global temperature results in cooler springs because more evaporation equals more clouds which get stuck on the Coast Mountains, blocking the sun. So the term “global warming” can be misleading: it causes cooling in this region.

There is no doubt, at least among rational people, that global average temperature is rising and that human activity is responsible.
Nobody ever said we’re gonna be goners because of it, only that it will cause a lot of disruption and make life more difficult for our descendants.

#3. Posted by Ellesmere Island forest on August 09, 2017

#2 while consumer demand and industry speed up global warming, the natural global warming is coming back around too; the two are linked and rapidly furthering global warming which is affecting the extreme cold overall and various weather patterns around the earth.  Take out the pollutants, consumerism and we are left with natural climate change at a slower rate.  Earth quakes, volcano eruptions, tsunamis, ice melting continue to move forward naturally.

The Newfoundlander March 7, 1873 has an ad for Gray’s Anodyne Liniment Co. selling Chery Balsam to remedy throat and lung disorders in this “ever changing climate.”

Ellesmere Island fossil forest is one perfect example of the affects from natural climate change.

#4. Posted by lefty thinking on August 10, 2017

Wildfires cause CO2, CO2 causes Global warming. Therefore, tax wildfires

#5. Posted by Scotty on Denman on August 10, 2017

If it’s too much of a stretch to figure out that man made releases of CO2 into the atmosphere are IN ADDITION TO natural sources that change climate over the long run, then a repeat of lower grade school arithmetic—-or maybe an assessment for special needs—-is definitely recommended. It has a lot to do with the SPEED at which humans make their contribution on top of natural sources like forest fires and volcanos. Simply noting that there are natural sources of CO2 in no way diminishes the fact that human CO2 generation and release is the significant contributor to global warming and climate change, in the same way that regular water levels do not diminish the fact that floods happen because of addition of water to them.

#6. Posted by Face Palm on August 10, 2017

Dear #3 - The fossilized remnants of an abundant flora on Ellesmere Island are in part a product of fluxuations in climate, they are also a product of plate tectonics; that is to say, that particular landmass was once located much further to the south than it is today.

#7. Posted by the audience on August 10, 2017

#5 well Scotty #3 explained for interested layman.

#8. Posted by Jim MacDonald on August 11, 2017

One Greenland tundra fire and world’s news media pushes it’s global warming.

Though little news media reporting about Summit, Greenland breaking all time cold recorded July 7, 2017 with a -33c temperature. 

Or about steam coming out of Helheim glacier, near Kulusuk, Greenland. We’ve been told for years the glacier is melting, cracking because of Co2 and not geothermal activity down below.

No worries, Co2 automatically gets demonized because it’s increasing even if naturally.(Though plants love C02). While for years temperatures have been leveling off or dropping colder but that is cold shhhh news.

Mmmmm, guess yet another IPCC only-man-made Co2 climate model bites the dust. 

Take note as the globe continues to cool, watch for increase of earthquakes and volcanoes. Even biblical style rains.

#9. Posted by Scotty on Denman on August 11, 2017

CO2 isn’t being demonized—-that’s totally unscientific, reserved for those who would sooner subscribe to superstition than admit the obvious. Quibbling over small annual fluctuations, and cherry picking out the ones that support this or that hypothesis is equally unscientific. It’s as if deniers can’t understand some fairly simple physics. For example, when ice cubes melt in a glass of water, they are, without doubt, warming up (yes, they’re melting), but the water in which they’re floating stays about the same temperature—-just above freezing—-the whole time. Some would say that’s proof the ice isn’t warming up and melting, but it eventually melts completely. And at that point the water in the glass rapidly climbs to room temperature. Can’t wait to hear what the deniers have to say when all Arctic ice melts away every summer and it starts getting warm everywhere as fast as the Arctic does today.

#10. Posted by the outter limits on August 11, 2017

#9 Scotty you neglected to be precise.  As ice cube melt, it absorbs heat energy from it’s surroundings.  Ice melts at different rates on fresh water, sea water, in forests, on land north of the tree line, by winds, on sand and in kinetic energy.

The science is out there and then there is the mystery behind the science that cannot be explained.

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