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Copernicus: In 2021, extensive wildfires bring new regional emissions records

Copernicus: In 2021, extensive wildfires bring new regional emissions records

Researchers at the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS) have been monitoring emissions from wildfires and their impact on the atmosphere worldwide in 2021. The service uses active fire satellite observations to estimate bushfire emissions in near real time and predict subsequent effects on air quality. and air.

Draw: Global wildfire activity animation On 07/31/2021 wildfires appear in Siberia, North America and around the Mediterranean. Source: Copernicus Atmosphere Watch Service / ECMWF

Several regions around the world experienced a year of intense, prolonged and devastating wildfires that caused an estimated 1,760 megatons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, according to researchers from Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS). During the year, some of the highest emissions were also recorded worldwide based on the Global Fire Absorption System (GFAS) for CAMS ’19. The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts monitors active fires around the world on behalf of the European Commission and assesses emissions and impacts on the atmosphere as well as air quality.

In April, intense and persistent shooting activity was observed in Western Siberia and Canada. The pattern observed by the EAM coincided with anomalies at elevated surface temperatures in these areas.


Global carbon emissions from wildfires between January 1 and November 30 since 2003 according to CAMS GFAS data. Source: Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service / ECMWF

During the summer of 2021 in particular, a number of severe wildfires were recorded resulting in the highest estimated emissions in the GFAS Efficiency Assurance Management System. The strength and intensity of forest fires were remarkable. This included vast areas in North America, Siberia, the eastern and central Mediterranean, and northern Africa. The total estimated emissions in July were the highest for 2021 with 343 megatonnes of carbon released into the atmosphere. More than half of the emissions were from fires in North America and Siberia, the two hardest-hit regions. August had an estimated higher emissions of 378 megatonnes of carbon released into the atmosphere globally.

Forest fires in 2021 were concentrated in four main areas:


A large number of wildfires broke out in areas of Western Siberia around Omsk and Tyumen, resulting in daily emissions well above the average for previous years during the period 2003-2021. Meanwhile, the eastern regions were unaffected earlier in the season. The difference was clearly reflected in the surface temperature deviations between the regions. In the summer, wildfires in the Sakhar Republic in northeastern Siberia recorded the highest total summer time with more than double the emissions in previous years. In addition, the daily fire intensity, measured as fire radiant strength (FRP), reached well above average levels during the period from June to early September. Other Austrian regions north of the Arctic Circle were also affected, as well as Chukotka and Irkutsk, but much less than in 2020 and 2019.

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Cumulative daily emissions of coal of wildfires from the CAMS Global Fire Absorption System (GFAS). Source: Copernicus/ECMWF Atmospheric Monitoring Service.

North Amarica

Wildfires burned in western North America from late June to late August. The hardest-hit areas included several provinces in Canada, as well as California and the northwestern United States. Among the fires was also the largest recorded in California history, called the Dixie Fire after the route from which it began. In total, the fires released an estimated 83 megatons of carbon into the atmosphere. The high intensity and persistent emissions of wildfires can be seen in the global CAMS forecast as a large cloud of smoke crossed the North Atlantic, mixed with emissions from Siberia, and reached western parts of the British Isles and northwest Europe in late August before that. rest of Europe.


The CAS CO mixing ratio of 500 hPa (about 5 km) fit for 12 UTC on August 19 shows smoke from the North American fires across the Atlantic. Source: Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service / ECMWF

Mediterranean region

Several countries in the eastern and central Mediterranean were affected by severe forest fires in July and August, resulting in high concentrations of particulate matter (known as PM2.5) and deteriorating air quality. Particularly dry and hot conditions during the summer months provided an ideal environment for intense and prolonged wildfires. Turkey was hardest hit in July due to daily fire intensity at extremely high levels, well above the regional average. Forest fires also affected Greece, Italy, Albania, North Macedonia, Spain, Algeria and Tunisia.

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Left: Total daily heat radiation from forest fires in Turkey (left) compared to the 2003–2020 average value (grey). Right: GEFF fire risk forecast for Southeast Europe on July 30, 2021. Cala: Copernicus Emergency Management Service; Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service / ECMWF

North India

Seasonal stump burning occurs in Pakistan and northwest India every year between late September and late November. The resulting smog and haze pollution can be clearly seen on satellite images during October and November 2021 and also in the very high values ​​of fine particulate matter and aerosol depth in the EAS global forecasts across the region. Significant air pollution was observed and reported across the plain between the Indus and Ganges rivers and affected millions of people, and the fires occurred mainly in the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana.


CAS analyzes of aerosol depth and PM2.5 surface concentration over South Asia between November 1 and 28, 2021. Source: Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service / ECMWF

Mark Barrington, a forest fire expert at ECMWF, Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, comments: “We have seen large areas experiencing intense and prolonged wildfires, some at a level not seen in recent decades. Drier and warmer regional conditions due to increased global warming risk Fire on vegetation which is reflected in very large, rapidly developing and persistent fires.”

“From 2021 it is clear that climate change provides an ideal environment for wildfires, which can also be exacerbated by local weather conditions. Our five-day forecast allows for mitigating measures to be taken before any pollution incidents occur,” he adds.

More information on wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere below:

Competency Assurance Management System Global Fire Monitoring Page:

Frequently Asked Questions About Forest Fire Efficiency Assurance Management System:


About ECMWF and Copernicus

Copernicus is part of the European Union’s Space Programme, funded by the European Union, the leading Earth observation programme. The operation operates through six thematic services: Atmosphere, Marine, Land, Climate Change, Security and Emergencies. It provides freely available operational data and services that provide users with reliable and up-to-date information about our planet and its environment. The program is coordinated and managed by the European Commission and implemented in partnership with Member States, the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMTSAT), the European Center for Medium Distance Forecasting (ECMWF), European Union agencies, Mercator Océan and more.

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ECMWF operates two services of the European Union’s Copernicus Earth Observation Program: the Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS) and the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). They also contribute to the Copernican Emergency Management Service (CEMS), which is implemented by the European Union Joint Research Council (JRC). The European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) is an independent intergovernmental organization supported by 34 countries. It is a 24/7 operational research and service institute that produces and publishes digital weather forecasts to its member states. These data are fully available to the national meteorological services of the member states. The supercomputer facility (and associated data archives) at the ECMWF is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and member states can use 25% of its capacity for their own purposes.

ECMWF has increased the number of places in which it does business. In addition to the UK headquarters and the computing center in Italy, new offices focusing on activities implemented in partnership with the European Union, such as Copernicus, will be located in Bonn, Germany starting in the summer of 2021.

Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service:

Copernicus Climate Change Service:
More information about Copernicus:

ECMWF: s webb:

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Nuria Lopez
Communication | Copernicus contracts and the press
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Bjorn Mogensen
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