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What are zombie fires and how dangerous are they?

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By illuminem briefings

· 2 min read

​​illuminem summarizes for you the essential news of the day. Read the full piece on DW or enjoy below:

🗞️ Driving the news: Canada is experiencing more than 150 active wildfires in the midst of winter, many of which are "zombie fires" that have persisted since 2023
• These fires, burning underground in boreal forests, pose significant risks for the upcoming summer wildfire season

🔭 The context: Zombie fires, also known as holdover fires, occur in regions with dense conifer forests and peaty soils, such as Canada, Alaska, Northern Europe, and Siberia
• They can smolder under the surface for months, surviving winter conditions due to the flammability of peat and insufficient moisture from snow to extinguish them

🌍 Why it matters for the planet: The relationship between climate change and zombie fires is concerning, as rising temperatures and prolonged droughts contribute to both the frequency of these fires and their intensity
• As zombie fires release CO2 and other greenhouse gases, they exacerbate the effects of climate change, creating a feedback loop that leads to more frequent and severe wildfires

⏭️ What's next: The persistence of zombie fires into the spring and summer months increases the likelihood of surface wildfires, especially in conditions of dry spring or insufficient winter snowfall
• Addressing these fires is challenging, requiring more than just water to extinguish them, as they burn in densely compacted organic material

💬 One quote: "Heat and drought don't only lead to more wildfires in the spring and summer, but also cause more zombie fires to continue smoldering in the ground in their wake," highlighting the exacerbated risk due to climate change

📈 One stat: In early 2024, western Canada saw 10 to 12 times more zombie fires than usual, following the country's worst fire season in history during the previous summer, with over 18 million hectares of land burned

Click for more news covering the latest on climate change

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