The year 2019 is wrapping up as the second or third warmest year on record, according to World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). It also concludes a decade of extreme global heat. Many countries, especially in Europe, broke all the past records in soaring temperature.
Because of the rise in temperatures, bushfires and melting of glaciers have increased significantly. Only this year, vast tracts of forests in Australia, Brazil, North California, Siberia, Indonesia, India and Central Africa were on fire due to hot, dry, low humid weather and rainfall deficiencies.
Any lightning strikes in dry, drought-affected forests have the potential to spark fire and sweep through other areas. Droughts, lightning, strong winds in dry, hot, low humid weather are major reasons behind wildfires.
Wildfires caused by droughts
Soaring temperature and strong winds have sparked fresh fire in Victoria of Australia. New South Wales (NSW), near Sydney of Australia, has been burning at a 'catastrophic' level, leading it to be declared as emergency situation in Sydney.
This is the first time this level has been issued for the state's capital Sydney.
Just four months back, Amazon, the largest tropical rainforest and one of the wettest forest of the world, also known as the lung of the world, was on fire. Though it was sparked by an arson, the drier and hot winds spread the fire.
One of the coldest places on earth Siberia also faced a blaze. Greenpeace called the Siberian wildfire one of the worst outbreaks of the century. Forest fires are common in summer in Siberia but record-breaking temperature and strong winds have made the situation worse this year. In Siberia, the temperature was about 10oC higher in June 2019 than the average, according to the World Trade Organisation.
Apart from this year's fire, the Camp Fire in Northern California in 2018 was the deadliest wildfire in the United States in a century, according to wildfire historians. It burned almost half a million acres and killed 48 people, reported Time.
Scientists said the state's 10 largest wildfires were recorded this decade while the past decade saw half of it. And environmentalists blamed only one thing – climate change. "California's wildfires are 500 percent larger due to climate change," claimed The Atlantic.
A massive fire also broke out in Bandipur, India this year. Environmentalists also blamed sudden climate change and rapid growth of dry grasses and lantana for the outbreak.
The United Kingdom saw the highest temperature in history at 38.7°C this year, which ignited a series of wildfires there. But the record-breaking outbreak took place in 2018. Two major bushfires -- one on Saddleworth Moor in Greater
Manchester and another on Winter Hill in Lancashire -- were declared as the largest fire incidents in the history of the UK. The Saddleworth Moor fire has been described as the largest English wildfire in living memory.
Lightning strikes have also increased because of warming of air. And it is another factor behind the rise in wildfires. In Canadian province British Columbia's history, the largest wildfire was recorded in 2018. And the blaze sparked from lightning.
Portugal also faced a deadly, catastrophic series of wildfires that raged a ravaged in 2017 – killing over 66 people. Analysists assume thunderstorms may have ignited the fire by striking the dry leaves with a heatwave of over 40 °C.
In 2015, five wildfires caused by lightning strikes affected Okanogan County in north-central Washington State in the US. It burned over 304,782 acres of land and forcefully evacuated some areas. Three firefighters were killed and layers of smoke made it difficult for the helicopters to fly. The event was declared the largest wildfire in Washington.
Another one of the deadliest wildfires caused by lightning took place in Arizona in the USA in 2013 – known as Yarnell Hill Fire. It was the largest in Arizona's history which killed 19 people and caused damages worth $664 million.
El Niño and strong wind
An El Niño occurs when sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean become substantially warmer than average - causing a shift in atmospheric circulation. In the Asian region, the largest El Niño-induced wildfire was recorded in Indonesia in 2015. Sumatra and Kalimantan fires emitted record high amount of smokes in the region in 2015, revealed the NASA satellite.
The shifts of westerly winds from north of Antarctica to the south had catalyzed the increase in wildfire in Tasmania of Australia in 2015. The frequency of the bushfires in the year had surpassed the history of past 1,000 years.
What are the causes of the warming of air?
Directly or indirectly climate change is to be blamed for the blazes in the forests. Carbon and greenhouse emissions are blanketing the surface of the earth.
Concentrations of carbon-di-oxide in the atmosphere hit a record level of 407.8 parts per million (ppm) in 2018 and continued to rise in 2019, reported the World Meteorological Organization. It must stabilise at 450 ppm to bar the temperature from rising beyond 2oC or more, according to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations.
However, the number of bushfires may not have soared in this decade but the severity, intensity and the amount of ravages surpassed the previous decade.
What are the global leaders doing to check the CO2 emission?
One-ninety-seven countries had ratified the Paris Agreement in 2015 – an agreement to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Recently, nearly 200 delegates gathered at the Conference of the Parties (COP) 25 to review the Paris Agreement agenda. But they failed to close the gaps between the existing emissions of greenhouse gases and the goals of Paris Agreement. They planned to put forward fresh pledges in the next COP 26 summit. When global leaders were supposed to check the carbon emission, it has increased 0.6 percent this year.
The global leaders failed to check carbon levels as pledged in the Paris Agreement. If they do not realize the impact of carbon emission and warming of air even after suffering such natural calamities, the situation is bound to worsen in the coming days.