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Mapping wildfires around the world


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Mapping wildfires around the world

 

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From Siberia to Algeria, Al Jazeera looks at some of the largest and deadliest wildfires blazing around the world

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In recent weeks, the devastating effects of wildfires, which have killed more than 100 people and rendered thousands homeless, have been dominating headlines around the world.

Several countries have reported their worst fires in decades, including hundreds of deadly fires across the Mediterranean. In Algeria, at least 90 people have been killed.

California’s Dixie fire – the second-largest in the state’s history, and Siberia’s wildfires are being touted as some of the largest fires in recorded history.

According to the European Space Agency, “fire affects an estimated four million square kilometres (1.5 million sq miles) of Earth’s land each year”. To put that in context, that is about half the size of the United States, larger than India, or roughly four times the size of Nigeria.

To measure the size and impact these fires have on climate, vegetation and atmosphere, scientists use observations from several low Earth-orbit satellites, including the Copernicus Sentinel-3. It gathers shortwave-infrared data combined with other techniques to differentiate between burned areas and other low reflectance covers such as clouds.

Wildfires on the rise

While wildfires are a natural part of many environments as a way to clear out dead underbrush and restore nutrients, scientists have warned that they are becoming more frequent and more widespread.

In August, an alarming UN report blamed human activity for “unprecedented” changes to the climate. Scientists from across the globe said humanity will experience more extreme weather in the coming years and will suffer the consequences of rising sea levels and melting Arctic ice.

Mark Diesendorf, associate professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia, told Al Jazeera climate change is producing heatwaves and droughts, which, in turn, create dry vegetation that fuels large fires.

According to the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, at least 470 wildfire disasters – incidents that killed 10 or more people or affected more than 100 – have been reported globally since 1911, causing at least $120bn in damages.

Mediterranean wildfires

A heatwave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from Africa, has led to wildfires across the region. Hundreds of fires have raged from Algeria to Jerusalem in the past month.

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Read more about fires in Turkey, Greece, Italy, France Algeria, Jerusalem...Al-Jazeera

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