Copernicus reports record summer wildfire activity in southwestern Europe

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Research from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) shows France recording the highest estimated carbon emissions from wildfires for June, July and August since 2003 in the Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS) data set as of August 11, 2022.

Top row: CAMS Fire Radiative Power estimations for Spain, Portugal and France in 2022 (red) compared to the 2003-2021 average (gray)     Bottom row: CAMS GFAS showing wildfire carbon emissions for the same countries between June and August (up to August 11, 2022) (Credit: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS))

CAMS, which is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) on behalf of the European Commission with funding from the European Union, has continued to monitor wildfires following the ongoing heatwave and prolonged dry conditions in the region.

GFAS is based on satellite observations of active fires and fire radiative power (FRP), which is a measure of fire intensity, to estimate emissions of carbon and a wide range of other air pollutants that make up smoke and provides a 20-year data set. The GFAS data shows high wildfire activity compared to the average of the period during the peaks of the repeated heatwaves, as shown in the graphic below.

The following chart of the cumulative daily total estimated carbon emissions show how France’s fire emissions in 2022 are remarkably similar to 2003, with its season having the highest wildfire emissions in the GFAS data set.

Cumulative daily total estimated carbon emissions for France (Credit: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS))

Mark Parrington, senior CAMS scientist, commented, “We have been monitoring an increase in the number and resulting emissions of wildfires as heatwave conditions have exacerbated fires in southwestern France and the Iberian Peninsula. The very extreme fire danger ratings that have been forecasted for large areas of southern Europe mean that the scale and intensity of any fires can be greatly increased, and this is what we have been observing in our emissions estimates and the impacts on local air quality.”

CAMS Regional Ensemble Forecast of daily maximum PM10 concentrations at surface level (Credit: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS))

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