Monday, August 2, 2010

Smoke and Wildfires in Ukraine

We've been hearing for a while about the terrible wildfires in Russia due to unprecedented hot and dry weather. This morning Kiev woke up to a smokey haze enshrouding the entire city. Reports say the smoke is from burning peat about 20 km from Kiev or from a fire near Irpen (to the northeast of Kiev) and is not from the much larger fires in Russia.

It is possible, even probable, that more fires will erupt in Ukraine in the coming week. Temperatures are expected to reach record levels at near 40 C (104 F) over much of the country on Wednesday and Thursday and remain high for many days after that, with no major precipitation in sight.

Much of Kiev is surrounded by pine forests that are frequented by picnickers who love to light fires and make shish-kabobs. Some of these people don't put out their fires completely before abandoning them (often with a few more bottles and plastic dishes spread around). All it takes is a hot wind to cause a wildfire. Right now the woods are dry, and fire danger levels will rise to "extreme" later this week.

Possible changes in Ukraine's landscape due to Global Warming

Climate scientists expect summers like this to become more common as the planet warms. Climate zones will shift northward, with Kiev becoming more like Kirovohrad (a city several hundred kilometers to the south), and Kirovohrad becoming more like Kherson (even further south).

This means that the boundary of steppe and forest will probably also shift north. How this will probably happen is that forests at the southern edge of the forested zone will become increasingly drier and susceptible to forest fires. They will start going up in flames and will simply not grow back. Instead, there will be grasses and shrubs with frequent fires in the hot and dry summer season leaving no chance for forests to develop.

UPDATE AUG. 13, 2010
The situation has not changed. There is still a light smokey haze above the city. Nothing like Moscow, but enough to make being outside less pleasant. Temperatures are forecasted to drop in a week, after many weeks of uncommon heat.

See: Current Weather around Ukraine at

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