Most of Greenland is covered in ice, so it's unusual to see smoke and flames spiraling from the landscape. But at the end of July, satellites detected wildfires burning there, NASA reports.
Despite all the ice, there are shrubs, grasses, mosses and other vegetation in some coastal areas of the island. The fire appears to be burning through peat, tweeted Miami University scientist Jessica McCarty. Peat houses were common in the area at one time, she says.
The fire is in western Greenland, about 90 miles northeast of Sisimiut. According to local reports, the fire consists of a series of smaller blazes — the largest of which has burned roughly 3,000 acres. Because smoke is rising as high as a mile in the air, hiking and hunting has been curtailed in the area.
Researchers are unsure what triggered the blaze. Jason Box, an ice sheet researcher with the Geologic Survey of Denmark and Greenland, told Climate Central that temperatures in the area rose in late July just before the blaze was first spotted. The warmer temperature (above 53 degrees Fahrenheit) may have helped the fires to spread. It's not clear how long this wildfire will last.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite Suomi NPP have been collecting daily images of smoke streaming from the fire. The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured this detailed image of the fire on Aug. 3, 2017.
Satellites have observed fires occasionally on the island, but according to NASA, the MODIS sensor has detected more fire activity in Greenland in 2017 than it has in any other year since it started collecting data in 2000.
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