Raging Amazon Rainforest Fires – Why it Matters to Everyone on the Planet

Amazon is home to 10 percent of all the animal species on the planet and majorly responsible for the biodiversity that’s vital for sustaining life on Earth. The region produces 20 percent of earth’s oxygen and is popularly referred to as the planet’s lungs. Sadly this year, there has been an abrupt increase in the number of fires in the rainforest, which is a cause of concern for the global community. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has detected more than 74,000 fires, an 84% increase in forest fires as compared to 2018. That means the Amazon is already burning at a record rate.

Tract of burnt  jungle being cleared by loggers & farmers in Novo Airao, Brazil / Image: Reuters

Amazon forest fires

Lately, fires detected by satellite over the past 48 hours has engulfed forest cover, two-thirds of which is in Brazil. More than 2,500 individual fires have been identified and slowly they are chocking the lungs of the planet. The smoke has engulfed nearly half of Brazil and is now spreading toward Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Startlingly, Sao Paulo which is 1,700 miles away has had pitch-black skies in the daytime as the sun is partially blocked by the ash and smoke.

Smoke as seen from the satellite images / Image: NASA

Smoke near Porto Velho, Rondonia State, Brazil, on Wednesday / Image: Reuters

The devastation caused by the fire in Brasilia, Brazil / Image: Reuters

Smoke during a fire near Humaita, Brazil / Image: Reuters

Burnt jungles near Porto Velho, Brazil / Photo: AP – Victor R. Caivano

The fires have had a severe impact on wildlife / Photo: Reuters – Ueslei Marcelino

Firefighters putting out forest fires along the road to Jacunda National Forest / Photo: AP – Eraldo Peres

Amazon Rainforest raging in fire / Image: Alamy Live News

Fire near Humaita, Brazil / Image: Reuters

The cause of fires

According to Christian Poirier, program director of non-profit organization Amazon Watch, some of these fires are attributed to natural causes like dry seasons combined with lightning. However, most of these fires are caused by human activity including deforestation, small-scale agricultural practices and droughts which is a result of anthropogenic climate change.

Some agencies are even accusing people of deliberately starting these fires to tarnish President Jair Bolsonaro’s image. The president believes that some non-profit groups have lit some of these fires to take revenge after their funding was cut down this year. That, however, is unknown and the fact is that stringent action needs to be taken to deal with this serious issue.

Aerial view of a deforested area in Boca do Acre, Amazonas state / Photo REUTERS – Bruno Kelly

Illegal cutting of trees in the region / Image: Reuters

Dangerous Levels of CO

According to the time series from the Amazon region in Brazil from Aug. 8-22, 2019, carbon monoxide resulting from the fires are moving to the northwest Amazon region and drifting in a more concentrated fashion toward the southeastern part of the country.

The data collected from the NASA’s Aqua satellite using Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) shows carbon monoxide at approximately 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) altitude.

In the image, green indicates concentrations of carbon monoxide at approximately 100 parts per billion by volume (ppbv). Yellow, at about 120 ppbv; and dark red, at about 160 ppbv. Startingly, the real values on the ground can be significantly higher.

Carbon monoxide from Amazon fires in Brazil from Aug. 8-22, 2019

Misinformation spread

Tags like #ActForTheAmazon, #PrayforAmazonas, #AmazonFire and #SaveAmazonRainforest are trending on Twitter and just like the unfortunate Amazon forest fires, misleading images of fires in previous years are also being circulated as Amazon’s current ongoing fires. Even celebrities have fallen in for the hoax and shared these images and tweets unintentionally. Here are some of the tweets that you need to stay clear of and stop the spread of misinformation.

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