Home Climate and Disaster Brazil has seen 100,000 fire alerts in 10 days

Brazil has seen 100,000 fire alerts in 10 days

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The fire in Brazil has been raging for three weeks. Carl De Souza / AFP/Getty Images

The Brazilian Amazon is burning at a record rate: Brazil has experienced more than 76,000 fires this year, whereas last year’s total was about 40,000. About 10,000 of this year’s fires have started in the past couple of weeks .

But it’s not just the Amazon — one map shows how much of South America is burning.

An aerial view of a tract of Amazon jungle burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers near the city of Novo Progresso,
 
An aerial view of a tract of Amazon jungle burning as it is being cleared by loggers and farmers near the city of Novo Progresso,

Scientists have recorded more than 76,000 fires in Brazil so far this year, but the problem isn’t confined to one country.

Many other parts of South America are burning, too.

Global Forest Watch , an organization sponsored by the World Resources Institute, monitors forests and track fires using satellite data. The group reported more than 109,000 fire alerts in Brazil between August 13 and yesterday, but its map of current blazes (below) shows fires in many other regions as well.

 

Amazon Fires
Courtesy of Global Fire Watch

Amazon Fires

So far this year, Brazil’s neighbor, Bolvia, has experienced more than 17,400 fires. Paraguay, to the south, has had just under 10,000 and Colmbia, to the north, 14,000.

While not pictured on the Global Forests Watch map, Venezuela has experienced the second-highest number of fires in 2019 : 26,500. That’s one-third of Brazil’s total.

Brazil, meanwhile, has seen more fires in 2019 than in any year since researchers began keeping track in 2013 and there are still four months to go. Since August 15, more than 9,500 new forest fires have started across Brazil, primarily in the Amazon basin. Year over year, that’s an 83% increase in fires,Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research reported .

Human-driven devastation

The fires in Brazil aren’t a natural disaster: Environmentalists and researchers say humans are to blame.

“The important thing to know about the Amazon is that few fires occur there naturally,” Mikaela Weisse, who tracks deforestation and fires for the World Resources Institute, told Vice .

About 99% of Amazon fires start from human actions, “either on purpose or by accident,” Alberto Setzer, a senior scientist at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), told CNN . Setzer said farmers often set the forest ablaze to clear land for agriculture.

Those fires can then get out of control.

A firefighter works during a wildfire near Robore, Santa Cruz region, eastern Bolivia on August 22, 2019. - Up to now, wildfires in Bolivia have devastated about 745,000 hectares of forests and pasturelands. Neighboring Peru, which contains much of the Amazon basin, announced it was
STR / AFP / Getty

A firefighter works during a wildfire near Robore, Santa Cruz region, eastern Bolivia on August 22, 2019. – Up to now, wildfires in Bolivia have devastated about 745,000 hectares of forests and pasturelands. Neighboring Peru, which contains much of the Amazon basin, announced it was

In total, the fires have created a layer of smoke estimated to be 1.2 million square miles wide which can be seen from space. The smoke plumes from blazes in the Amazon have spread far from the state of Amazonas on Monday, smoke blotted out the sun in So Paulo , a city more than 2,000 miles away.

 

As the world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon plays a crucial role in keeping our planet’s carbon-dioxide levels in check. Plants and trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the air in the process of photosynthesis. This is why the Amazon, which covers 2.1 million square miles, is often referred to as the “lungs of the planet” : The forest produces between 6% and 20% of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.

NASA Terra_MODIS satellite image_21August2019
Maxar Technologies

NASA Terra_MODIS satellite image_21August2019

But when trees burn, they release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, and that further fuels climate change.

“The Amazon is incredibly important for our future, for our ability to stave off the worst of climate change,” Christian Poirier, the program director of non-profit organization Amazon Watch, told CNN . “This isn’t hyperbole. We’re looking at untold destruction not just of the Amazon but for our entire planet.”

NOW WATCH: A Latvian company is developing drones that can put out fires

See Also:

SEE ALSO: The blazes in the Amazon are so big they can be seen from space. One map shows the alarming scale of the fires.

 

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