Wildfire still burning in Greenland tundra in mid-August 2017
[S]cientist Stef Lhermitte at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands showed preliminary evidence that 2017 has seen the largest amount of wildfire activity since the start of the NASA MODIS satellite record in 2000.
According to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, issued in 2014, as temperatures warm across the globe, they have been rising the fastest across the Arctic. This especially holds true during the summer months. Tied to this increase in warmth, the IPCC notes that vegetation has greened across a third of the Arctic from 1982-2012, including areas along western Greenland (IPCC AR5 Working Group 2).
In response to our request, Uma Bhatt of University of Alaska-Fairbanks, ran a temperature and vegetation analysis for the area of western Greenland where this summer’s fires were occurring. (Bhatt and her colleagues do a similar assessment each year as part of the Arctic Report Card.) The satellite-based analysis confirmed that during past several decades, there has been a “greening” and warming trend in the area.
Satellite-based analysis of average summer warmth (top), peak vegetation greenness (middle), and cumulative greenness in the area where this summer's large fire occurred. Despite ups and downs from year to year, a clear warming and greening trend is clear, especially since the 1990s. All three hit a recent high in 2012, the same year that the area of surface melt on the Greenland Ice Sheet set a new record. Analysis by Uma Bhatt, based on NDVI data from NOAA's AVHRR series of satellites.