Boreal forests under threat from 'zombie wildfires'

'Zombie wildfires' are burning in the Arctic

Location: Alaska, U.S.

Also known as 'overwintering fires'

they are surviving winter snows and are sparking back up again in spring

(SOUNDBITE) (English) SANDER VERAVERBEKE, STUDY CO-AUTHOR & LANDSCAPE ECOLOGIST AT VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT AMSTERDAM, SAYING: "We've found a clear indication in our data set that over the 18 years of our study that more overwintering fires pop up after a very severe and large fire year, which is also associated with high temperatures and droughts in these regions. And we do know that we will have more of that in the future. These fires, they burn more extensively in area. They burn also deeper into that peat, which is very critical to kind of facilitate the conditions for smouldering in the peat throughout winter and hibernate. So those are conditions that we know facilitate the overwintering. And we know that they have been increasing."

Scientists found that overwintering fires accounted for about 1% of burning

between 2002 and 2018 in the boreal forests of Alaska and Canada's Northwest Territories

Zombie fires have also been recorded in Siberia

(SOUNDBITE) (English) SANDER VERAVERBEKE, STUDY CO-AUTHOR & LANDSCAPE ECOLOGIST AT VRIJE UNIVERSITEIT AMSTERDAM, SAYING: "The sheer fact that this is happening is already pretty crazy, and I think that really shows how fast this region is changing because of climate change."

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