Unprecedented Wildfire on Frozen Continent Recalls Powerful Biblical Mixing of Fire and Ice

August 14, 2017

3 min read

In an inexplicable mixture of fire and ice, a wildfire has been burning out of control in frozen Greenland, wreaking havoc with the ecosystem. The strange phenomenon of mixing opposing elements has its roots in the Bible, lending a deeper meaning to its reappearance.

Even in the summer, 90 percent of Greenland is covered in a sheet of ice up to two miles thick, so when satellites first picked up thermal images indicating a large fire in late July, scientists thought it was an error in the data. It wasn’t until a pilot in a small airplane actually spotted the blaze on July 31 that scientists realized there was a problem.

The blaze, covering about two square miles, is unprecedented and nothing similar to this has been recorded in the cold island nation since satellite monitoring began in 2000. NASA called it “an unusual event.”

The image of fire and ice is a powerfully Biblical, with its origins in the plague of hail that struck Egypt before the Exodus of the Jews. The Book of Exodus describes the balls of hail as containing flames.

The hail was very heavy—fire flashing in the midst of the hail—such as had not fallen on the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. Exodus 9:24

Rabbi Alon Anava, an inspirational speaker who addresses audiences around the world, explained that this unnatural mixture of fire and ice bears a specific message.

“The ice mirrored the nature of the conceited to be extremely cold – aloof and indifferent to others. Haughtiness can also express itself in heated passion – that is, toward one’s own selfish interests,” Rabbi Anava wrote in an explanation of the verse.

“In fact, the icy coldness toward others is due to the narcissist’s obsessive adoration of himself or herself. This self-obsession was reflected in the fire within the ice in the plague of hail.”

The fire in Greenland appears to be burning peat, an accumulation of partially decayed organic matter. This makes the fire even more problematic. Higher in carbon than plants, the burning peat releases large amounts of carbon which are carried by the wind to the ice. The black carbon absorbs the infrared energy of the sun to a greater degree, causing the ice to melt at a much faster rate.

There’s no telling when the fire may end, and since Greenland has never been faced with this dilemma, they have no method of extinguishing the fires. In any case, the fire is in a remote and difficult-to-access region in western Greenland, about 90 miles northeast of the nearest town.

Weather forecasts do not predict rain in the near future, so Greenland is left waiting for the winter’s first snow, expected next month.

This blaze is part of a disturbing trend. Satellite data from recent years show a dramatic increase in fire activity in icy Greenland starting in 2015. More than 40 fires have already broken out in 2017, compared with only 10 last year.

Larger than Texas, the remote island straddles the Arctic circle and has only 56,000 residents. With such a small population, natural disasters take on much greater significance. In another disastrous meeting of opposing elements, on June 18, a large landslide plunging into a fjord generated a tsunami along Greenland’s north-western coast. The flood left two people seriously injured, seven slightly injured, four people still missing and 11 houses in the village of Nuugaatsiaq, population about 100, completely destroyed or swept out to sea.

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