Alexander Deyev can still taste the smoke from last year’s wildfires that blanketed the towns near his home in southeastern Siberia, and he is dreading their return.
“It just felt like you couldn’t breathe at all,” said Deyev, 32, who lives in Irkutsk, a Siberian region along Lake Baikal, just north of the Mongolian border.
But already this year, fires in the spring arrived earlier and with more ferocity, government officials have said. In the territory where Deyev lives, fires were three times as large this April as the year before. And the hot, dry summer lies ahead.
Much of the world remains consumed with the deadly novel coronavirus. The United States, crippled by the pandemic, is in the throes of a divisive presidential campaign and protests over racial inequality. But at the top of the globe, the Arctic is enduring its own summer of discontent.
Wildfires are raging amid record-breaking temperatures. Permafrost is thawing, infrastructure is crumbling and sea ice is dramatically vanishing.
In Siberia and across much of the Arctic, profound changes are unfolding more rapidly than scientists anticipated only a few years ago. Shifts that once seemed decades away are happening now, with potentially global implications. [Continue reading…]