Satellite images taken from the International Space Station prove that the 2019 fire season has been Brazil’s most active since 2010, NASA stated in a release published this week.
NASA’s primary tool for detecting fires since 2002 has been the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on the Terra and Aqua satellites. According to the statement, MODIS active fire detections in 2019 are higher across Brazil’s portion of the Amazon rainforest than in any year since 2010, putting the Amazon on track for record fire activity in 2019.
Douglas Morton, chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in the statement that while drought has played a role in the ongoing blaze, the timing and location of the fires suggest they’re more consistent with land clearing.
In addition, the statement goes on to state that this is the highest fire year across all seven states that comprise the Brazilian Amazon, and the 2019 fires are also burning more intensely than in previous years.
Astronauts onboard the international space station can also observe the fires burning in the Amazon from space. European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano tweeted on Aug. 26 four images that depict smoke clouds hovering over the rainforest.
“The smoke, visible for thousands of kilometres, of tens of human-caused fires in the Amazon forest,” he wrote.
Brazil has recently rejected US$40 million in assistance offered by Group of Seven leaders to help fight the fires. The Amazon rainforest took centre stage during last weekend’s G7 summit in France.
Through Aug. 25, the number of blazes recorded across the Brazilian Amazon this year has risen 79 per cent from 2018, according to Brazil’s space research agency. The fires are not limited to Brazil, with at least 10,000 square kilometres burning in Bolivia, near its border with Paraguay and Brazil.
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Cattle and soybean farmers clearing the land to make room for pasture have largely been blamed for this year’s excessive flames.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday he wants French President Emmanuel Macron to retract “insults” against him before he considers accepting aid from the Group of Seven nations.
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The two leaders have become embroiled in a deeply personal and public war of words in recent days, with Bolsonaro mocking Macron’s wife on Facebook and accusing the French leader of disrespecting Brazil’s sovereignty. Macron called Bolsonaro a liar and said that Brazilian women are probably ashamed of their president.
The fires have sparked an international outcry for preservation of the world’s largest rainforest.
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Climate change advocates have not only cited the rainforest’s carbon-absorbing qualities but also stress that the flames themselves are emitting millions of tons of carbon every day.
Currently, the world is emitting around 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. The Amazon absorbs two billion tons of CO2 per year (or 5 per cent of annual emissions), making it a vital part of preventing climate change.
— With files from Reuters and the Associated Press.