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Fires in Siberia

Fires in Siberia

The 2015 fire season has been harsh in parts of western Canada and the United States. On the other side of the Northern Hemisphere, a significant amount of burning also has taken place.

Burning in Siberia took off in springtime, when smoke from deadly fires in southern Russia crossed the Pacific Ocean and reached North America. By mid-summer, fires and smoke obscured the shoreline of Lake Baikal, as revealed in satellite imagery from July 27. Wildfires around the lake were still burning on August 8, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured the image above. Actively burning areas, detected by the thermal bands on MODIS, are outlined in red.

Scientists think the high intensity of fires on August 8 led to the formation of at least one pyrocumulonimbus—a high-reaching cumulonimbus cloud created by the heat from fire rather than by evaporation from sun-warmed ground. Dense smoke plumes were lofted high into the atmosphere, a phenomenon visible on subsequent days in data from the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS) on the Suomi NPP satellite.

According to news reports citing Russia’s federal forestry agency, fires in Siberia had burned 1,400 square kilometers (540 square miles) as of August 12. Many of the fires were in southern Siberia, particularly in Buryatia and Irkutsk. Straddling those two areas is Lake Baikal. According to the Siberian Times, vacationers reported ash on the lake and on camp sites, and more than 40 people were evacuated.

Fires are a regular occurrence in this region during fire season. But according to news reports, water levels in Lake Baikal—the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world—have been dropping. As a result, the drier coastline could lead to more summertime wildfires.

NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response. Caption by Kathryn Hansen.

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