This was the year the world burned. Literally. The year kicked off with Tasmania on fire. People set the Amazon aflame this summer. California burst into a fiery hellscape. The Arctic didn’t even catch a break. Now, Australia’s out-of-control bushfires are killing koalas and flying foxes while leaving Sydney under a toxic haze.

To truly understand the scope of our world on fire, you have to see it from satellite. And the EU’s Copernicus Program has done that, offering a visualization where viewers can see the flames dance across the planet. There are hot spots popping up in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia, all of which never seem to get a break throughout 2019. You can’t see the fires in the more snowy parts of the world like the Arctic right away, but just wait until summer comes around. The ice slowly starts to retreat north and boom! Fire. The imagery shows the daily fire radiative power in watts per square meter. Viewers see this in the form of orange flames.


Wildfires, forest fires, and bushfires have hit basically every part of the globe in 2019. And there have been horrific consequences. Such fiery happenings are only going to worsen as the planet continues to warm. That’s what climate change does—and will continue to do unless we stop emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. High temperatures dry out vegetation and make the perfect conditions for fires to spark and spread. Ecosystems are suffering as a result, but, more importantly, so are people.


After its worst fire season on record last year, utilities in California that sparked some of those deadly fires resorted to shutting off power for days at a time to avoid more fires (it didn’t always work). Then there’s the aforementioned haze from Australia’s mega fires burning now. And fires in the Amazon have basically been a form of genocide used against indigenous groups.

This was 2019. Imagine what the next decade will look like.

Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.

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From Inside Climate News (ICN)

How Wildfires Can Affect Climate Change (and Vice Versa)

When they calculate total global CO2 output, scientists don’t include all wildfire emissions as net emissions, though, because some of the CO2 is offset by renewed forest growth in the burned areas. As a result, they estimate that wildfires make up 5 to 10 percent of annual global CO2 emissions each year.

Bolding done by me. From the paper cited in the ICN post above:

Global fire emissions estimates during 1997–2016

Cool graph showing fire carbon emissions per locale and by source, i.e. ag burning, peat fires, forest fires, grassland fires, etc.