Zombie fires are likely already burning across the Arctic, fueled by record warm conditions in a disastrous feedback loop, scientists warn. The zombie fires — wildfires in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, so-called because they continue to smolder under winter snows and reignite once the snow melts — have been spotted in Alaska and scientists are becoming increasingly convinced they are likely burning across the Siberian Arctic as well. The Siberian Arctic has seen temperatures soar to as much as 46 degrees Fahrenheit above normal throughout the month of May and the extremely warm temperatures accelerate snowmelt and the drying of vegetation and peat. The carbon-rich Arctic peatlands had served as something of a fire break, but with the Arctic warming at twice the pace as the rest of the planet, they have instead become an accelerant.
“Arctic fires are becoming more common overall,” Jessica McCarty, an Arctic fire researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Geography at Miami University told Mashable. Arctic fires release enormous amounts of methane and carbon dioxide, which will further drive up temperatures. “Further warming leads to more zombie fires. It’s not great,” McCarty added. (Washington Post $, Mashable, Bloomberg $)