According to recent satellite data, ongoing wildfires in France have already released unprecedented amounts of carbon into the sky.

According to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service, the fires that burned significant areas of the southern Gironde region released over 1 million metric tonnes of carbon from June to August (CAMS).

That is nearly equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions from 790,000 automobiles.

France has averaged roughly 300,000 tonnes of annual carbon emissions from fires during the last two decades.

The only year that has come close to matching this summer’s record for France is 2003, which also happens to be the year that satellite monitoring began. Summer heat and dry conditions resulted in the emission of around 650,000 metric tonnes of carbon from June to August wildfires.

Emissions data from southwestern Europe offers a “reflection of the size and persistence of the fires,” said Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at CAMS to Reuters. This, he added, is tied to the region’s plants and trees becoming more flammable under “long-standing drier and warmer conditions”.

CAMS stated last month that Spain saw record wildfire emissions during a mid-July heatwave. more info In comparison, wildfires in Portugal resulted in lower emissions than in previous years.

According to data from the European Forest Fire Information System, more than 60,000 hectares (230 square miles) have burnt in France so far this year, which is six times the full-year average from 2006 to 2021. 

While France’s emissions are “fairly negligible” in terms of worldwide wildfire emissions, the fires have a significant influence on regional air quality, according to Parrington.

Satellite photographs show a massive smoke plume spreading into the Bay of Biscay. In addition to carbon, wildfires emit other pollutants such as Particulate Matter 2.5, which can cause illness. 

Smoky conditions have also been observed to lower solar energy output by over 50% in some circumstances. Because tiny airborne particles from flames can hinder sunlight from reaching panels.

The Gironde area of France is home to a 40,000-panel solar panel system that supplies power to nearly 13,000 people.

Source: Reuters


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