Speaking to CBS News about the Alberta fire that destroyed Fort McMurray, a geography professor at University of California at Los Angeles named Glen MacDonald said that the Canadian wildfire is ‘just not surprising’ considering the effects of global warming in the country.
This is one of the parts of the world that has seen warmer and warmer winters and accelerated springs and drier conditions, which are linked to increasing atmospheric greenhouse gasses and the long-term warming that we’ve seen. It’s just not surprising that you would have an event like this.
Scientists say the near-destruction of Fort McMurray last week by a wildfire is the latest indication that the vital boreal forest is at risk from climate change.
Scientists have been warning for decades that climate change is a threat to the immense tracts of forest that ring the Northern Hemisphere, with rising temperatures, drying trees and earlier melting of snow contributing to a growing number of wildfires.
The near-destruction of a Canadian city last week by a fire that sent almost 90,000 people fleeing for their lives is grim proof that the threat to these vast stands of spruce and other resinous trees, collectively known as the boreal forest, is real. And scientists say a large-scale loss of the forest could have profound consequences for efforts to limit the damage from climate change.The problem here is that the wildfires are going to make things worse
But scientists see a risk that if the destruction from fires and insects keeps rising, the situation will reverse, and some of the carbon that has been locked away in the forests will return to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, accelerating the pace of global warming and further magnifying the stress on the forests — a dangerous feedback loop.And not just warming the atmosphere
In addition, winds are sometimes carrying soot from the northern fires onto the immense sheet of ice covering Greenland, darkening the surface and causing it to absorb more of the sun’s heat. In 2012, such soot contributed to melting the surface of virtually the entire Greenland ice sheet, the first time that had happened since 1889.
Experts fear that more fires, and more soot, could further accelerate the melting of the ice sheet, which has the potential — should it disintegrate entirely — to raise the global sea level by more than 20 feet.