Peat fires continue to burn at air temperature of -50C in northeastern Yakutia

27 January 2021

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RUSSIA – Zombie fires in northeastern Yakutia, Russia’s largest and coldest inhabited region. Picture: The Siberian Times

The latest sighting of winter – zombie – fires was recorded on 23 January by the village of Saydy in the Tomponsky district of Yakutia, some 400km north-east of the republic’s capital Yakutsk.

Local man Ivan Zakharov who filmed the fire at -50C told The Siberian Times: ‘It is burning near the area hit by last summer’s wildfires.

‘This area suffered extremely hot and dry weather. It must be either peat on fire here, or, as some hunters who noticed these fires suggest, possibly young coal (lignite).’

A much bigger burning area was filmed higher up north from Saydy by the village of Udarnik, also badly hit by wildfires last summer.

‘The fire is burning in the area close to the village of Udarnik. The summer fire didn’t stop.

‘The filming was made in November, but as the local tell us, several fires are still active’, reported Tomponsky Vestnik newspaper that shared the video.

Last summer Republic of Yakutia, Russia’s largest and coldest region was hit by some of the worst wildfires in history, following the spell of extremely hot and dry weather.

Wildfires were raging all around its territory, with a massive blanket of smoke visible from space in the far north beside the Arctic Ocean.

Some were in the areas too remote to reach, but many got dangerously close to populated areas like the Arctic town of Chersky, a gateway to Pleistocene Park, an experimental scientific base aiming to show how the release of carbon can be slowed by restoring the flora to grassland as it was in the era of the extinct woolly mammoth.

‘We didn’t have wildfires reaching this far north to our area for many years’, said scientist Nikita Zimov, director of Pleistocene Park. ‘Last time it was this bad forty years ago in the 80s’.

This winter is the coldest in Yakutia since 2006, with air temperatures going as low as -59C during peak days, and record cold weather holding on for weeks all through December 2020, and January 2021.

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