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Greenland Fires Ignite Climate Change Fears
August 18, 2017
In a real clash of fire and ice, a massive wildfire in southern Greenland has captured the world’s attention.
At the end of July, a couple of NASA satellites detected hot spots in Greenland that indicated fire, said Mark Ruminski, a team leader for a hazard mapping system of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But fires are unexpected in Greenland, so he and his team thought it might be an error in the data.
Then a civilian pilot snapped pictures of a wildfire near Sisimiut, the second-largest city in Greenland. When clouds cleared a few days later, NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite and the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellites captured photos of the largest of the fires from high above.
Although ice covers nearly all of Greenland, fires do occasionally break out on the ice sheet’s margins. Hearing of the new sightings, Stef Lhermitte, a geoscientist who specializes in remote sensing at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, reviewed the past 17 years of data from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite and threw together a quick analysis on Twitter to help give context to the situation.