In we breathed wildfire smoke, out the forests released carbon — a record setting amount, of course

Forests burn. Carbon emits. Climate warms. Repeat.

Wildfire smoke hangs in the lower tree line of Mount St. Helens in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest. Photo taken by Ashli Blow.
Satellite images show smoke and fire detections. In second image, colors represent the aerosol index from fires, with blue being low and red high. The aerosol index is a qualitative product that can easily detect smoke over all types of land surfaces. Images used with permission from NASA’s Earth Observatory
Morton also works on a team that manages the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED), which combines satellite information on fire activity and vegetation productivity to estimate gridded monthly burned area and fire emissions. Preliminary data shows that California is the highest year for fire carbon emissions. Oregon is also on track for a record year in terms of fire carbon emissions.
Looking up from the forest floor, where vegetation like small plants grow. Forests floors also include down woody debris, like tree branches and dead trees. Photo taken in Washington’s Alpine Wilderness by Ashli Blow

“Essentially, we’ll be able to eventually store as much of the carbon as is being burned off and killed by the fires today,” Morton said. “Whereas we once were talking about the conversion process like deforestation as being the major source of long term greenhouse gas emissions, now we’re opening up a conversation about whether fires will create a new kind of ecosystem, and that transition will also lead to this release of greenhouse gases. That puts it right back on par again, with your cars or boats, your planes, your trucks.”

In Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest, vegetation begins to regrow in a burned forest. Photo taken in Three Sisters Wilderness by Ashli Blow.

Ashli is a writer in Seattle, who talks with people about the environment, health, and transportation. ➡️ ashliblow.com

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