Northern Siberian 'Zombie Fire' Burning at Nearly -60 Degrees Fahrenheit

It turns out fires can burn in extremely, unconscionably cold weather.
Brad Bergan

Wildfires are raging near the Russian village of Saydy in the Tomponsky district of Yakutia — roughly 250 miles (400 km) north-east of the republic's capital of Yakutsk, according to an initial report from Siberian Times.

The fire continues to burn in a bitter-cold environment of nearly -60ºF (-50ºC), and highlights the active shifts of our global climate.

'Zombie fire' in northern Siberia burning at nearly -60 degrees Fahrenheit

"It is burning near the area hit by last summer's wildfires," said a local man Ivan Zakharov who filmed the fire — which is burning at the bitter cold temperature of -58ºF (-50ºC) — to Siberian Times. "This area suffered extremely hot and dry weather. It must be either peat on fire here, or, as some hunters who noticed these fires suggest, possibly young coal (lignite)."

This comes on the heels of several global wildfires — from California to German forests — which were linked to the same changes in global climate as the "exploding" Siberian Tundra.

Northern Siberian fire still burning since summer 2020

A much larger area of the wildfire was captured from a position farther north of Saydy — near the village of Udarnik, which was also stricken with fires during summer 2020.

"The fire is burning in the area close to the village of Udarnik. The summer fire didn't stop," reported the Tomponsky Vestnik newspaper — who shared the video with Siberian News.

Russian wildfires generated massive blanket of smoke, visible from space

In summer 2020, Russia's largest and coldest geographical region suffered some of the worst wildfires in history — after a prolonged period of exceptionally hot and dry weather.

Wildfires erupted throughout the country, leaving a gigantic blanket of smoke visible from space in the far north — near the Arctic Ocean.

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While some wildfires raged in areas too remote to document, many came perilously close to populated areas — like the Arctic town of Chersky, which is a gateway to Pleistocene Park — a scientific base designed to investigate how we might slow the continued release of carbon via the restoration of flora to grassland to a level not seen since the days of the now-extinct woolly mammoth.

Coldest winter in region since 2006

"We didn't have wildfires reaching this far north to our area for many years," said Nikita Zimov, a scientist and Pleistocene Park's director, to Siberian Times.

Notably, this is the coldest winter in Yakutia since 2006, with air temperatures dropping to an unconscionable -74.2ºF (-59ºC) peak, and this record-setting coldness lasted for weeks, from December 2020 to January of this year.

Climate crisis warms permafrost, explodes tundra into air

Persistent wildfires have grown into a global phenomenon since 2020 — with smoke from California wildfires not only viewable from space, but even drifting into Europe last September. But there are other, more striking signs of our altering climate.

In September of last year, local journalists discovered a hot crater — roughly 165 ft (50 m) deep — in the northwest Siberian region. Footage from the local news team depicted a relatively calm region of tundra ripped open by an ominous pit to hell.

It looked like a bomb crater, but was in fact the result of warming temperatures thawing out underlying permafrost — at a rapid pace. In some cases, this can cause the process to explode a chunk of tundra into the air.

Everyone knows the climate crisis is bad, but without a direct effect on our daily lives, it can feel like a simple, automatic category to changes in the environment. But as we move further into the 21st century, the luxury of knowing about issues in the environment intellectually will give way — as the growing entropy of remote regions begins to come to town, and change our lives for keeps.

This was a breaking story and was regularly updated as new information became available.

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