Fires raging in the Amazon rainforest can now be seen from space

By Australian Geographic 22 August 2019
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NASA satellite imagery has captured a river of smoke spreading across South America.

SATELLITE IMAGERY released by NASA earlier today depicts rivers of smoke across Brazil and other South American countries, as fires continue to rage in the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical forest.

Wildfires during the July–August dry season are common, however, data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) found that there have been 73,000 fires, an 83 per cent increase over the same period in 2018.

On 20 August, the smoke turned the Brazilian city of São Paulo black, prompting major concerns for the Amazon rainforest, leading to the #PrayforAmazonas hashtag, which has now been tweeted over a million times. 

With the loss of vast swathes of rainforest, scientists are concerned about the impact the fires may have on the carbon cycle. Rainforests store large amounts of CO2, which, when released, warm the Earth’s climate. 

According to data from the INPE, released in July 2019, of the Amazon rainforest had been cleared in the first 15 days of July – an increase of 68 per cent from the entire month of July 2018.

Scientists from the INPE said that deforestation in the Amazon had increased under President Jair Bolsonaro, who was elected in 2018 on a platform of increasing development in the rainforest.

Conservationists say that Bolsonaro’s stance on development in the Amazon rainforest has emboldened farmers and loggers, who have been known to deliberately set the fires. 

The fires have been raging for three weeks now, and since last Thursday, almost 10,000 new fires have been spotted via NASA’s satellite images.