Climate Change and Wildfires in Alaska – Is There A Link?

Scientists warned us about the negative effects of climate change – and Alaska has been feeling the effects via wildfires and heat waves drying out the arctic.

Forest Fire Source:

You might have heard about the forest fires happening in . has led to more storms drying out forests and causing lightning, which has, in turn, caused fires in Alaska, according to climate scientist Brian Brettschneider, who tracks extreme weather in Alaska and the Arctic.  

Global Warming and  Causing Dangerous Wildfires 

Wildfires resulting from global warming and climate change have led to more than 1.2 million acres burning in Alaska, causing one of the largest fires recorded to date in Alaska.  

These fires are spreading into the Arctic as seen through satellite monitoring. Climate change experts suggested a long time ago that this would happen as air temperatures increase.  

Climate Change is Changing the Planet 

For weeks, part of Alaska the size of California has been experiencing an extreme heatwave. Sea ice on the Northern coast is vanishing months earlier than it usually does, and temperatures of the ocean surface are roughly 9 degrees warmer than normal in the Chukchi Sea. Other changes are occurring throughout the state which might point back to climate change and global warming… 

The July to June average temperature in Alaska, for the first time in 95 years, has been above freezing. This indicates temperatures much warmer than average across the state. This year alone, the average temperature across Alaska was almost 8 degrees above average. Anchorage hit 90 degrees on July 4th marking the city’s highest recorded temperature, which was up by 5 degrees.  

Climate Change And Fires in the Arctic 

Climate change could be causing fires in the Arctic. The recent large fires could signal a climate tipping point in accordance with climate researcher  (London School of Economics and Political Science). Smith mentioned in relation to the Arctic wildfires that if temperatures were to remain higher (than a certain temperature) for an extended period of time, fuels could become flammable.  

Unprecedented fire and smoke intensity occurred in June. Back in 2016, a paper published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society demonstrated that climate change ultimately caused by humans increased the chance of extreme fire seasons occurring in Alaska by up to 60 percent. Grass, trees and shrubs, as well as tundra, become more flammable as temperatures rise, especially when they are not offset by wet conditions. Basically, when the temperature increases, precipitation has to increase with it or too much drying will take place. Precipitation is not increasing enough to offset the hot temperatures in Alaska.  

Alaska is Overheating Due to Global Warming & Climate Change 

Recently, according to senior scientist with the ECMWF and Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service Mark Parrington, a European satellite monitoring the climate verified the fire intensity and levels of smoke emissions in Alaska as well as in the Arctic were unparalleled for the month of June. The monitoring demonstrated the link between wildfires and extreme heat, basically revealing that Alaska is overheating because of climate change and global warming.  

Alaska is not exactly a place where one would expect serious fires to occur. There are health risks, of course, associated with  smoke, so the heat and smoke are dangerous for the planet and they raise public health concerns. Even in Fairbanks, public health warnings against vigorous outdoor activity were released. Greenhouse gasses are being emitted by the wildfires, thereby warming the planet and releasing smoke into the atmosphere. Consequently, Fairbanks recently was reported as having the worst air quality on the planet.  

Global warming is undoubtedly leading to an increase in extreme fires. There have been fire threats in places otherwise not used to having much, if any, fire at all. By mid-century, there is a possibility that the number of days in which we see extreme fires will increase up to 50 percent across the globe (currently, the number sits at 20 percent).  

It isn’t just wildfires taking place. The ocean surrounding Alaska has also been heating up. Here’s how this spirals out of control – heat waves in the ocean contribute to heat waves on land, and when temperatures overall lead to ice freeze-up being delayed, there is more heat buildup in the ocean, which can cause dangerous problems for the Arctic climate system. ’s Rick Thoman discussed how a climate shift is occurring in Alaska as ocean temperatures change.  

Animals in Western Alaska are dying due to warmer ocean temperatures. There have been more reports of dead marine mammals, fish, and birds on the Local Environmental Observer network.  

Fires are connected to global warming, and they are causing major damage. Clearly, climate change and global warming are proving extremely dangerous for our planet. It is time to step up and do our part to help protect the planet that we live on. When a place like Alaska starts to burn, there isn’t much room to argue that there is a serious problem relevant to climate change.  




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