Following record-breaking heat and drought in northeastern Russia, hundreds of intense wildfires are now burning through taiga forests in Siberia.
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi NPP acquired this natural-color image of large clouds of smoke enveloping the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) on July 5, 2021. Satellite data indicates that several small fires burned intermittently in the area for weeks, but several exploded in size during the last week of June.
According to Sakha’s emergencies ministry, more than 250 fires were burning across roughly 5720 square kilometers (2,210 square miles) of land on July 5—an area about twice the size of Luxembourg. While regional authorities report extinguishing dozens of fires per day, they call the situation “difficult” and will likely be battling large fires for weeks. Thick smoke has occasionally enveloped Yakutsk, the largest city (population 312,000) in Sakha, and other settlements in the region.
The second image, acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite, shows more distinct plumes from five large fires burning around Penzhina Bay (northwest of the Kamchatka Peninsula). The third image, from the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, shows a detailed view of one of the fires on July 4.
This is the second consecutive July that intense heat and wildfires have ravaged this region. In 2020, fires raged in Yakutia for much of July and August. Siberia wildlands also burned extensively in 2001, 2005, and 2013, according to a summary of the 2020 Siberian fire season authored by researchers from George Mason University and Siberian Federal University. An international group of scientists recently published a study noting that the prolonged heat waves in Siberia in 2020 would have been "almost impossible" without the influence of human-induced climate change.
NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCE and GIBS/Worldview and Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Story by Adam Voiland.