Record heat, drought and deforestation are contributing to the risk of wildfires.
Large wildfires are burning all over the world right now.
More than 21,000 square miles of forest have caught fire in Siberia this month, putting Russia on track for its worst year on record for wildfires. Smoke from these fires covered much of the country, including major cities like Novosibirsk, and has crossed the Pacific Ocean into the United States.
On Monday, a forest fire in the Canary Islands forced more than 8,000 people to flee. Over the weekend, new fires started in Alaska, extending what has already been an unusually long fire season for the state. Last week, Denmark sent firefighters to Greenland to fight a forest fire approaching inhabited areas. If not extinguished, officials are concerned the fire will burn through the winter, further adding to the already melting ice that Greenland has experienced this year amid record heat.
California, which experienced its most destructive wildfire season on record in 2018, is having a much calmer year by comparison, although the potential for a major fire remains.
But perhaps even more alarming are the wildfires in the Amazon rainforest, the largest tropical forest in the world. It's an area that hardly ever burns on its own, yet the flames have grown so intense that they darkened the sky over São Paulo, Brazil's largest city, on Monday. The state of Amazonas has declared an emergency. The hashtag #PrayforAmazonia has emerged on social media.
Many of these fires stem from unprecedented heat and dryness in many parts of the world this year. And in the case of the Amazon, they are an unmistakable sign of how humans are radically reshaping the planet.
Conditions were ripe for big fires this year
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last week that July was the hottest on record. The next five worst July were all in the last five years.
This is not just for the Northern Hemisphere, where it is summer right now, but for the whole world. And there were many extremes last month.
The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium set temperature records. Paris recorded its highest temperature, 42.5 degrees C. Parts of Poland, the Czech Republic and Spain also experienced record high temperatures. Huge swaths of the United States also warmed up in a heat wave last month, with lows near or record-breaking.