The mysterious zombie fires

Peatlands burning in Alaska, Canada and Siberia are often called ‘zombie fires’. It is because they are believed to be remains of past fires. These burn underground during the winter and then return to the surface in the spring. What really sets off the mysterious zombie fires?

Early appearances are being recorded, long before the season. This baffles scientists. A new study reveals that its cause is climate change.

Mysterious zombie fires are complicated by climate change.
Mysterious zombie fires are complicated by climate change.

Microbes and heat

Mathematical scientists from the University of Irish Cork found an alternative explanation. They made a special mathematical model based on the analysis of various scenarios. It revealed the direct influence of climate and meteorological changes on the carbon content of peat bog soils and their temperature. Among other things, the researchers studied certain microbes that inhabit them. These contribute to rising temperatures and soil degradation. And they release carbon into the atmosphere.

The study also showed that peat can reach temperatures of up to 80°C during the cold season in the north. This causes ignition when the atmospheric temperature warms. It can occur in places where fires have never occurred before. That refutes previous theories about the causes of zombie fires. The key factor in the fire is not the high temperature of the atmosphere. In reality, it is the rate of heating, that is, the speed.

They could happen more frequently in the future.
They could happen more frequently in the future.

Fighting climate change

There is another problem. The carbon released into the atmosphere by peatlands contributes to further increasing climate change. In turn, this causes more fires. Carbon-emitting peatlands and global warming have mutual and inextricably linked negative effects.

According to scientists, the only method to prevent mysterious zombie fires is to combat climate change. It is one of the central problems of our time. «Politicians focus on dangerous levels of atmospheric temperature. But climate variability may be as important or more important for our short-term sustainability,” they conclude. The article was published in The Conversation.

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