What is Zombie fire?

What is Zombie fire?

News Analysis   /   What is Zombie fire?

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Published on: July 24, 2023

Source: The Hindu


As global temperatures rise, fires are also spreading farther north and into the Arctic, which is causing an increase in “zombie fires.”

Zombie Fire: 

Zombie fires refer to fires that smoulder under the ground, often in carbon-rich peat, from a previous growing season.

These fires burn at lower temperatures, leading to the production of more smoke.


Changing climate conditions, particularly the rapid warming of the Arctic, contribute to the occurrence of zombie fires.

Rising temperatures in the Arctic, known as Arctic amplification, dry up organic-rich soils, making them prone to slow-burning fires.

Changes in atmospheric circulation result in extreme heat, vegetation drying out, reduced soil moisture, and increased frequency of lightning strikes, all of which can spark wildfires.

Why it occurs?

As the organic-rich Arctic soils dry up because of changing climate conditions, they can burn slowly and release vast amounts of smoke into the atmosphere.

One major culprit is the rising temperature: The Arctic is warming nearly four times faster than the rest of the world, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification.

Among the changing conditions that favour wildfires are changes in atmospheric circulation that create periods of extreme heat, dry out vegetation and reduce moisture in soils, and, importantly, lead to more frequent lightning strikes that can spark blazes.


The Arctic’s warming and the northward movement of fires lead to the accelerated burning of peat soils rich in dead plant material.

Burning peat removes the insulating layer over permafrost, the region’s frozen carbon-rich soil.

The Arctic’s peat and permafrost ecosystems store twice as much carbon as the atmosphere, making them highly vulnerable to fire-induced carbon release.

Related Term:

Zombie ice, also known as “polar ice zombie,” is a term used to describe Arctic or Antarctic ice that appears to be melting and disappearing during the warmer months but later reappears and refreezes during the colder months. However, the ice is no longer getting replenished by parent glaciers

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