From the Weather Center by John Simon
According to the BBC, zombie fires usually happen as the aftermath of wildfires. They’re called zombie fires because they seem to come back from the dead, and refuse to die.
Often, after a wildfire has been extinguished on the surface, some of it can still burn below the ground in secret, fueled by peat and methane. Zombie fires are common in Russia.
The Science News for Students website reports that “zombie fires hibernate underground. Blanketed by snow, they smolder through the cold. Fueled by carbon-rich peat and Northwoods soils, most of these hidden fires creep less than 500 meters (1,640 feet) during the winter. Come spring, the fires reemerge near sites they had charred the season before. Now they turn to burning fresh fuel. And this may happen well before the traditional fire season would have begun.”
In Russia, recent zombie fires engulfed more than 170 forests, destroying more than 20,000 square kilometers of woodlands. That exceeded the damage from the “Dixie Fire” in California by ten times!
A 2008 zombie fire in Alaska burned nearly 34,000 acres, amounting to 38 per cent of the annual burned area in the state that year.
Zombie fires can also emit large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, which contributes to global warming.