Largest ever wildfire in Greenland seen burning from space


copernicus sentinel -2b/pierre Markuse/ESA By Michael Le Page The largest wildfire ever detected by satellites in the mostly ice-covered country of Greenland continues to spread. Local authorities are said to be considering ways to halt the blaze, but it is not clear whether they have the necessary resources. “It certainly is the biggest one in the satellite record,” says remote-sensing scientist Stef Lhermitte of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. That record only goes back to 2000, but it could well turn out to be the biggest wildfire in Greenland’s history. The fire, first spotted by a pilot on 31 July, has taken researchers like Lhermitte by surprise.  His initial analysis of satellite observations suggests there have been a few small wildfires in Greenland since 2000 but that over the past three years there has been a huge increase in the area burning. I quickly made an overview of the MODIS active fires since 2000 over Greenland ifo confidence level. Many low confidence fires in the past pic.twitter.com/iEwJfDCz8W — Stef Lhermitte (@StefLhermitte) August 7, 2017 Most of Greenland is covered by ice up to 3 kilometres thick but there is some tundra around the coastline. The wildfire is burning on tundra in the west of Greenland, near the small town of Sisimiut. Based on the fact that the fire is spreading slowly and on the colour of the smoke, Jessica McCarty of Miami University thinks that what is burning is not just the sparse surface vegetation but the peat underneath. The larger fire could be a result of melting permafrost, McCarty told Wildfire Today. As the once-frozen ground melts, the upper layers can dry out and become flammable if they are full of organic matter. According to local news reports there are fears that with no rainfall expected the fire could keep burning for a long time to come. The smoke is preventing hunting in the area and also destroying the grazing for reindeer – a serious problem for subsistence hunters in the area. This GIF below shows how the fire has spread over the past week. A week of the Greenland wildfire burning as seen from MODIS Aqua/Terra satellites @[email protected][email protected][email protected]_geopic.twitter.com/cns8K05HmU — Stef Lhermitte (@StefLhermitte) August 7, 2017 More on these topics:
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