The fires that rage through the Brazilian Amazon this summer are not "normal" and large increases in deforestation may explain why, scientists say.
The Perceptual Scale of the Amazon Flames received global attention this summer. International concerns raised at the time were countered by the Brazilian government, which said the fire situation in August was "normal" and "below the historical average."
An international team of scientists wrote in the journal Global Change in Biology say that the number of active fires in August was actually three times higher than in 201
Although fires in the Amazon can occur in many ways , scientists show that there is strong evidence that with tied the increase this year to deforestation.
They used evidence gathered from the Brazilian government's DESTER-b deforestation system – which calculates deforestation by interpreting images taken by NASA satellites.
This shows that deforestation in July this year. year is almost four times more than the average for the same period in the previous three years. This is important because deforestation is almost always followed by fire – the felled vegetation is allowed to dry before it is burned.
Professor Joss Barlow, a leading author of the article, says: "The significant uptick in the number of active fires and deforestation in 2019 therefore refutes the Brazilian Government's proposal that August 2019 is a normal fire month in the Amazon."  The fiery flames happened in a moment without intense drought. Droughts can provide conditions conducive to the spread of human-made fires. Scientists also show that the "huge" smoke flows that reached high into the atmosphere, which were captured by media shots of flames, could only be caused by the burning of large quantities of biomass.
Researchers admit that the number of active fires declined by 35 percent in September. Although they say it is unclear whether this fall is due to the rains or the two-month moratorium on President Bolsonro's fires.
Photos from DETER-b show that deforestation continues at a rate well above average in September, despite the presidential moratorium.
The extent of the fires in August is unclear. Although the number of fires is reported, their size is not, researchers acknowledge in their document "Clarifying the burning crisis in the Amazon".
Dr. Erica Berenguer, a Brazilian researcher affiliated with Lancaster University and the University of Oxford, said: "Our book makes it clear that without deforestation, we will continue to see the world's largest tropical rain forest become ash. We need to limit deforestation.
"Brazil has been an environmental leader for the last decade, showing to the world that it can successfully reduce deforestation. It is not reasonable economically and environmentally to reverse this trend. "
The Amazon has not stopped burning. Last month there were 19 925 fires, and in the future there are more "fires"
Joss Barlow et al., Explaining the Burning Crisis of the Amazon, The Biology of Global Change (2019). Doi: 10.1111 / gcb.14872
Amazon deforestation and the number of fires indicate that summer 2019 is not a "normal" year (2019, November 15)
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