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Copernicus: A summer of extremes as European wildfire emissions reach highest level in 15 years

Scientists from Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service reported that this summer’s devastating wildfires in Europe caused the largest emissions since 2007. CAMS monitored the daily intensity, emissions, and resulting impacts on air quality from these wildfires all summer, along with other wildfires across the globe.

Today’s Copernicus Weather Monitoring Service (CAMS) report shows that European wildfires have caused the greatest emissions in fifteen years. Combining August’s heatwave and prolonged dry conditions in western Europe led to an increase in wildfire intensity, persistence, and frequency.

Data from the CAMS Global Fire Assimilation Systems (GFAS), which uses satellite observations to track wildfire locations and Fire Radiative Powers (FRP), a measure to assess emissions of air pollutants in smoke, show that wildfire emissions from both the European Union and the United Kingdom between 1 June 2022 to 31 August 2022 were 6.4 megatonnes. This is the highest amount for these months since 2007.

CAMS is a project of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, funded by the European Union. It reports that summer 2022’s emissions were largely caused by devastating wildfires in southwestern France. Spain and France had their highest wildfire emissions over the past 20 years.


Other regions in the northern hemisphere that experience high wildfire activity in the summer months saw their total emissions drop significantly despite the destruction of many fires. The Sakha Republic in the far east of Russia and Chukotka Autonomous Oblast did not see as much fire this summer, with most of the fires occurring further south in Khabarovsk Krai. The central and western regions of Russia, such as Khanty-Mansy Autonomous Okrug, Ryazan Oblast, saw more wildfires, resulting in thick smoke and poor air quality for several days. The total emissions from fires in Russia’s Central Federal District were higher than those from large peat fires that ravaged western Russia in 2010.

North America saw wildfires that had begun in Alaska in May and continued into June and July. Large fires were also burning in Canada’s Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories. According to CAMS GFAS data, the Western United States saw daily total fire intensity and seasonal emissions that were lower than in the summers 2020 and 2021. These were also less common for the year.

The Amazon region has been experiencing a fire season from August to September. The second half of August saw above-average daily fire emissions from Brazil’s Legal Amazon. This resulted in one the highest estimated total emissions for the period (alongside 2019-2021). The state of Amazonas saw fire emissions that were significantly higher than the rest of the Legal Amazon. This resulted in the second highest July-August totals of any 20 year. There have been clear increases in fires in the Amazon region in the first few days, with daily values exceedingly high in many Amazon states, resulting in large areas of smoke over South America. CAMS continues to monitor the smoke and fire emissions in the region.


Mark Parrington is a Senior Scientist at the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service and wildfire expert. He said: “The persistence and scale of the fires in southwest Europe, which led to the highest European emissions in 15 years, was extremely concerning during the summer. Most of the fires were in areas where the changing climate has increased the flammability of vegetation, such as in southwestern Europe and other areas in other years. CAMS will be closely monitoring smoke transport and fire emissions in South America’s Amazon region as peak fire season nears in the coming weeks.

You can find more information about CAMS monitoring wildfires around the world, including their location, intensity and estimated emissions. As well as smoke transport, and composition, on its global fire monitoring page.

This article gives more insights and information about observed fires during summer 2022

Learn more about fire monitoring in Wildfire Q&As

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