'Zombie Fires' Are Causing More Destruction From Wildfires

‘Zombie fires’ are becoming more common in a changing climate.

Also known as overwintering fires, these burns smolder throughout non-fire seasons and survive underneath snow to reignite in the spring. They burn deep in the ground in places with thick, heavily organic soils such as the northern forests in Alaska and Canada. These carbon-heavy soils emit disproportionately large amounts of greenhouse gases.

As the planet warms, high temperatures will lead to conditions even more conducive to zombie fires, with longer fire seasons, larger burn areas, and drier soils. While currently responsible for only 0.5% of the carbon emissions from wildfires in Alaska and the Northwest Territories, scientists expect that this percentage will increase as the climate warms.

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