It was summer 2019, and the planet’s far North was burning. That year, more than 600 wildfires consumed over 2.4 million acres of forest across Alaska, along with other fires in northern Canada. In Siberia, choking smoke from 13 million acres—an area nearly the size of West Virginia—blanketed towns and cities.

Fires in these places are normal. But, as studies here at the University of Alaska show, they are also abnormal.

SNAP Network Coordinator Nancy Fresco and her colleagues are examining the complex relationships between warming climate, increasing fire and shifting patterns of vegetation. Using locally focused climate data and models from the Scenarios Network for Alaska and Arctic Planning, the research group she helps coordinate, they are finding evidence that is deeply worrying—not just for those of us who live within the fires’ pall of smoke, but for the world.

This article was published online at The Conversation.

satellite image of smoke over alaska

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