Wildfires rage in parts of Northern Hemisphere amid record-breaking heat

1st month of summer begins with reports of high temperatures as countries including Spain, US continue to battle flames

Burak Bir and Faruk Zorlu  | 23.06.2022 - Update : 25.06.2022
Wildfires rage in parts of Northern Hemisphere amid record-breaking heat


Wildfires and forest fires continue to burn in Northern Hemisphere countries amid sobering reports of record-breaking temperatures throughout the world.

Defined as one of the most devastating outcomes of climate change while also accelerating it, the fires continue to wreak havoc on rainforests, which some people call “the world's lungs.”

Extreme heatwaves due to climate change are regarded as one of the world's most pressing issues, and they exacerbate wildfires as an inevitable result of the increased frequency and severity of changes in the global climate.

From the US to Afghanistan, fires continue to break out during the month of June, leaving thousands of acres of forest land charred.

Meanwhile, international institutions and organizations continue to warn policy-makers to step up their efforts to tackle global climate change.

Massive wildfires in June

Extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change occurred across the US in early June, bringing excessive heat as well as fires to various parts of the country.

A pair of fires erupted in the state of Arizona, darkening the sky with dense smoke, with one of them burning more than 4,000 acres of land, according to the state's Department of Environmental Quality.

Wildfires were also reported in the state of California, including the Sheep Fire northeast of Los Angeles, which has consumed nearly 1,000 acres.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Afghanistan and Pakistan are among the two countries where blazes wiped out thousands of acres of forest area.

A fire broke out in the Sham Dara forest area of Nurgaram district in Afghanistan's Nuristan province while Pakistan's northwestern Swat Valley was in the headlines over massive wildfires that have burned down over 14,000 acres.

Germany, Spain, and Türkiye are the three countries in Europe that were affected by forest fires as a heatwave also continues to grip the continent.

Spanish firefighters are scrambling to control more than a dozen forest fires as authorities announced that Catalonia was the most affected region in the country. In the meantime, flames in Zamora province have charred more than 70,000 acres, making it one of the largest forest fires in the country in several decades.

Although only 60 hectares of land were burned in Germany, wildfires were approaching an area southwest of the capital Berlin as temperatures in the country soared to 36 degrees Celsius (96.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

Firefighters and other personnel intervening by land and air meanwhile brought a wildfire largely under control that broke out in a forest in southern Türkiye.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is also battling flames as the wildfire has gutted 10,000 acres of land so far.

Record-breaking temperatures

North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Northeast Asia are going through a hot summer as the regions' countries experience extreme heat.

According to the US National Weather Service (NWS), over 100 million people nationwide are being impacted by a sweeping heatwave that is expected to break records in many parts of the country as it moves east.

Meanwhile, France announced a fund of 500 million euros ($528 million) for the development of "islands of freshness" to beat an oncoming heatwave and fight climate change as the country reeled from a record temperature of 43 degrees Celsius (109.4 degrees Fahrenheit) last week.

Extreme heat is also breaking all-time records in Germany, with the city of Cottbus sweltering from temperatures reaching 39.2 degrees Celsius (102.5 degrees Fahrenheit).

North Africa, Spain, and Portugal are also experiencing powerful heat waves which could bring new records, according to analysis.

The Middle East is another region that has been hit by high temperatures in June, with Iraq expected to break national records with 51.6 degrees Celsius (124.8 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded so far in June.

As droughts and heat exacerbate wildfires, there may be many new and large wildfires across the Northern Hemisphere countries this summer.

Warnings of global warming, heatwaves

According to a report titled "Spreading like Wildfire: The Rising Threat of Extraordinary Landscape Fires" released by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) early this year, the frequency and severity of wildfires will continue to increase around the world.

"Climate change and land-use change are projected to make wildfires more frequent and intense, with a global increase of extreme fires of up to 14% by 2030, 30% by the end of 2050 and 50% by the end of the century," said the report.

It also highlighted that some of the biggest increases in wildfires in the near term would be in areas not typically used to seeing wildfires such as the Arctic and central Europe.

Also pointing out the impacts of fires on clean air and the environment, the report stressed that wildlife and its natural habitats are rarely spared from wildfires, pushing some animals and plant species closer to extinction.

"Wildfires in ecosystems like peatlands and rainforests, which store large amounts of irrecoverable terrestrial carbon, release vast quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, exacerbating global warming," it warned.

A number of experts and officials also pointed out the importance of the Paris Agreement.

The agreement sets out a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and making efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

It also aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change and support them in their efforts.

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