As many of you recall, our weather this year has been anything but typical. Temps in Jan. edging up toward the freezing mark (32F degrees) during the day, February returning to the -40 at nights most of us are used to, and then we not just cleared break up in May, but many lawns cleared of snow! Somewhat of an easy winter on heating utilities, all in all. And then we had a brutally dry late Spring summer up to July- with over 400 forest concurrent fires statewide with edging up toward 2 million acres burnt.
Though burning biomass is seen as “carbon neutral” from an accounting point of view when done in energy production, some such as Chris Mooney (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/06/29/over-a-million-acres-have-burned-in-alaska-wildfires-this-month/) see the troubling aspect of our increased Alaskan fires as related to negative climate change impacts. With the majority of the state being made up of permafrost and thermokarst lakes, we have frozen organic rich soils do not decay much before freezing.
And so the scarification that takes place during forest fires by removing the cover vegetation thus makes it more exposed to passive solar heat (as well as the soil thawing from ground fires). Some fear that this catalyst toward thawing the permafrost will let loose of massive amounts of carbon dioxide. [As far as the thawing of thermokarst lakes go, professor Katy Walters-Anthony had been measuring the increasing amount of methane bubbles coming off thermokarst lakes via satellite imagery]. When July rolled around, an opposite effect came about in the Interior and we had drenching rain, similar to our Southeast Maritime coast right into September!
All the more reason to look for ways to assist fuel reduction by harvesting biomass that can be used in the winter when we can contain and control how- and where it burns.