GFMC: Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

Forest Fires in the Russian Federation

27 July 2010

MODIS scene:

MODIS Aqua scene depicted on 26 July 2010, 09:30 UCT, East of Nizhniy Novgorod.
Google Earth location – see below. Source / Courtesy: NASA / Google Earth.

Forest and peat fires cover over 52,000 hectares in Russia

Forest and peat fires have covered the area of over 52,000 hectares in Russia, the Emergencies Ministry’s information department told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.

“Over the past 24 hours, 374 new forest fires were registered in Russian regions, 294 of them were put out. Another 282 seats of fire remains hot,” the source said.

One hundred and fifty-two fires on the area of 25,600 hectares were localized.

Forest fires are registered practically in all Russian federal districts.

The Emergencies Ministry said 34 new peat fires, including 30 in the Moscow region, emerged over the past 24 hours.

From the beginning of the fire hazardous period in Russia 20,780 seats of fire on the total area of 418,000 hectares were registered. Of them 816 are peat fires that covered the area of 724 hectares.

A group of 63,000 fire-fighters and 40 helicopters and jets are engaged in the fire-fighting operations.

“There is no threat to populated settlements and economic facilities,” the ministry said.

Air pollution in Moscow rises to maximum level in July

Air pollution in Moscow has reached a maximum high level over the past month, expert of the Moscow Ecological Monitoring Center Alexei Popikov told Vesti FM radio Monday.

On Monday mooring air pollution in the city was at a maximum level over the past month. Prior to that several incidents of smog had been registered in the city, but today is the worst one. As for concrete figures the concentration of certain harmful substances is two– three times higher than registered Sunday, the expert said.

The ecological situation has worsened on the whole territory of the city. Even without harmful fumes his situation would have been stressful, but the fog has made it even worse, the expert said.

Air temperatures in the city and in the Moscow region have been rising. On Monday a maximum temperature record has been set over the past 130 years – 37. 4 degrees Celsius.

Smog blankets Moscow on city’s hottest day

Moscow sweltered on Monday through its hottest day since records began 130 years ago, as temperatures hit 37.4 degrees Celsius (99.3 degrees Farenheit) sparking peat fires that blanketed the city in smog.

A heatwave has engulfed central parts of European Russia, and Siberia since June, destroying crops covering an area the size of Portugal. Green groups, including Greenpeace, say the temperatures are evidence of global warming.

“The all-time record has been broken, we have never recorded a day this hot before,” said Gennady Yeliseyev, deputy head of Russia’s state weather agency. The previous high of 36.8 degrees Celsius was recorded on August 7, 1920, he said.

“The new record could be broken by Wednesday,” he said.

Muscovites have struggled to deal with the heat, with most electronics retailers selling out of fans and air conditioners, and many cafes running out of ice and cold beer by early afternoon.

Women were using golf umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun on Red Square. Bloggers have begun to complain of men traveling with bare torsos on the metro.

“This summer is very hard, physically and emotionally,” said accountant Marina Veselkova, trying to cool off by a fountain in front of Bolshoi Theater after sending her children to relatives in the country.

“It’s very bad,” said Alexander, a courier. “I go to the beach at the weekends but it’s difficult to swim because the water is so hot.”


Russian grain prices shot up last week on advancing drought . The Agriculture Ministry said late on Friday that by July 22 drought had killed crops over 100,000 square kilometers (38,600 square miles), an area larger than Portugal.

Muscovites’ discomfort was compounded on Monday by a blanket of smog, whose sharp, cinder-filled smell permeated the city and crept into offices, homes and restaurants via windows and doors.

The emergencies ministry said 34 peat fires and 26 forest fires were blazing on Monday in the area surrounding Moscow, covering 59 hectares (145 acres).

“Muscovites will have to inhale smoke for another two to two and a half months,” said Alexei Yaroshenko, head of the forest programme at Greenpeace Russia. He said the smoke could eclipse the worst smog registered in Moscow, in 1872 and 1837.

Airports serving Moscow were unaffected by the smoke.

“This is awful. It is going to damage people’s health,” said telephone engineer Davit Manukov, 25, standing by the Kremlin where black clouds of smoke enveloped its golden onion domes.

The Moscow government agency overseeing air pollution, Mosekomonitoring, told Reuters the amount of harmful impurities in Moscow’s air exceeded the norm by 5-8 times.

The elderly and those suffering from heart disease should try and avoid contact with the smog, said its chief specialist Alexei Popikov, adding that the levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide were high.

Severe Drought in Southern Russia

Severe and persistent drought held southern Russia in its grip in June and July 2010. Low rainfall and hot temperatures damaged 32 percent of the country’s grain crops, said Russian Agriculture Minister, Yelena Skrynnik on July 23. This satellite vegetation index image, made from data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite, shows the damage done to plants throughout southern Russia. A previously published image of land surface temperatures shows extreme heat in the drought region at the same time.

The vegetation index is a reflection of photosynthesis. The index is high in areas where plants are dense, with plenty of photosynthesizing leaves. The index is low when plants are thin or not present. This image is a vegetation index anomaly image that compares photosynthesis between June 26 and July 11, 2010, to average conditions observed in late June and early July between 2000 and 2009. Below-average plant growth is shown in brown, while average growth is cream-colored. If there had been above-average growth in the region, it would have been represented in green.

The land around the Volga River is brown in this image. Plants throughout the region were stressed, producing fewer leaves and photosynthesizing less between June 26 and July 11, 2010. The image is speckled brown. In the large image, which covers a broader region in more detail than the web image, the dots are clearly fields of crops. Here, the dots blend together to reveal a broad region of drought-affected crops.

The Volga region is one of Russia’s primary spring wheat-growing areas. The vegetation index values shown here were the lowest late-June values seen in Russia’s spring wheat zone since the MODIS sensor began taking measurements in 2000, said an analyst from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service. Largely as a result of the drought, the USDA expected Russia’s overall wheat crop to be 14 percent smaller than in 2009.

The drought affects more than Russian farmers. Russia is the world’s fourth largest wheat exporter. If Russia isn’t able to supply as much wheat, the world’s overall wheat supply will drop. With less wheat on the market, wheat prices will go up. As of July 23, wheat futures (the current price for wheat that will be harvested and delivered in September) had risen for four consecutive weeks because of the expected drop in supply of Russian wheat, reported Bloomberg.

Fires in Eastern Siberia

Fires raged in eastern Siberia in late July 2010, sending a plume of thick smoke hundreds of kilometers wide over the Bering Sea. News sources attributed fires in the Russian Federation to drought, heat, and human activity.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image on July 25, 2010. Red outlines indicate areas with unusually high surface temperatures associated with actively burning fires.

This image shows the region north of the Kamchatka Peninsula. The largest collection of fires is clustered around a river that feeds into the Penzhinskaya Guba, part of the Sea of Okhotsk. Smaller clusters of fires also burn in the northwest, northeast, and south. Most of the fires send their smoke toward the northeast, but east of the burning fires, winds carry the smoke toward the southeast. Off the coast, the smoke plume is thick enough to completely hide parts of the Bering Sea.

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