Smoke from raging forest fires in Siberia has reached the North Pole for the first time in recorded history, as a Russian monitoring institute warned the fires were escalating.
Devastating forest fires have ravaged Siberia with increasing regularity in recent years, which Russian weather officials and conservationists have linked to climate change and an underfunded forest service.
UN climate experts on Monday released a report that unequivocally shows that global warming is developing faster than expected and that humanity is almost entirely to blame.
One of the hardest-hit parts of Siberia this year has been Yakutia – Russia’s largest and coldest region that sits atop the permafrost – which has seen record high temperatures and drought.
The Russian weather monitoring institute Rosgidromet said on Monday that the situation in the region, also known as Sakha, “continues to deteriorate.” Nearly 3.4 million hectares (8.4 million acres) are burning in the region, including hard-to-reach and remote areas, according to Rosgidromet.
On Saturday, US space agency Nasa said its satellite images showed smoke from forest fires traveling “over 3,000 km (1,800 miles) from Yakutia to reach the North Pole,” calling it ” first in recorded history ”. He added that on August 6 most of Russia was covered in smoke.
Environmentalists blame authorities for allowing large areas to burn every year under a law that allows them not to intervene if the cost of fighting the fires exceeds the damage caused or if they do not affect areas inhabited.
According to the Russian Forest Agency, this year’s fires devastated more than 14 million hectares, making it the second worst fire season since the turn of the century.
Greenpeace Russia’s forestry program manager Alexei Yaroshenko has linked the growing area of forest fires in Russia to the effects of climate change as well as the “continuing decline in state forest management.”