The World's Coldest Inhabited Place Is Burning Because of 'Zombie Fires'

Photographer Semyon Sivtsev captured signs of fires burning under snow and ice.
Smoke coming out of a peat fire.
Screenshot via YouTube

Zombie fires are burning in the world’s coldest inhabited place: Russia’s Oymyakon region, known as the “Pole of Cold.” 

Oymyakon photographer Semyon Sivtsev captured the fires smoking out from the snow-covered ground and shared the images on Instagram. 

“I filmed them near to grasslands close to the village of Khara Tumul, not far from Oymyakon,” Semyon told the Siberian Times. “It was in the area where wildfires were burning in the summer.” 

Zombie fires are fires that have stayed burning underground even through winter. Studies have shown that zombie fires are linked to climate change: unusually hot summers, years with large fires, and deep burning in organic, carbon-rich soils contribute to these eerie fires. The burning peat and permafrost releases more CO2 into the atmosphere. The area saw its warmest-ever June in 2021, with temperatures reaching 88.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Its lowest-ever temperature was in 1993, when it got down to 89.9 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. 

Satellite images showed the fires burning in May 2021, according to the Siberian Times; in August, Russian authorities declared a state of emergency for northeast Siberia, as wildfires in the region burned 18.16m hectares of Russian forest this year.

“Emergency workers have come and villagers are also fighting the fires but they can’t put them out, they can’t stop them,” Varvara, a 63-year-old from the remote village of Teryut, told the Guardian in July. “Everything is on fire.”