NBC NEWS by
There’s something curious happening in icy Greenland: a wildfire that has been burning for weeks.The wildfire appears to be historic in both its size and its duration, but no one can say for sure — because Greenland doesn’t have longstanding records of fires. Officials haven’t had much of a need for them, seeing as nearly 80 percent of the Arctic island is covered in an ice sheet.
“There are wildfires, but it’s not a typical wildfire environment, and it’s a remote area,” said Stef Lhermitte, a remote sensing scientist at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.
At about two square miles, this wildfire is relatively small compared to others around the world. But it’s the biggest in Greenland since satellite record-keeping began in 2000.
This one was first spotted on satellite on July 31 in western Greenland, about 90 miles northeast of the city of Sisimiut — and it’s still burning.
Past wildfires in Greenland have only lasted one to three days, said Dr. Jessica McCarty, an assistant professor of geography at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and an expert in satellite data analysis. This one is about 40 miles west of the ice sheet.
“It’s concerning,” McCarty said. “This is not usual.”
News of the wildfire has intrigued scientists from around the globe, many of whom have been sharing statistics about Greenland on social media as researchers try to piece together Greenland’s history to determine whether this is unprecedented.
Lhermitte, the remote sensing scientist, found that this year has had the highest number of fire detections on record.