Amazon Fires Visible From Space And Causing Blackouts In Sao Paulo
The National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) says that the Amazon has seen a record number of fires this year, according to new data.
Oh, and the smoke from these fires even managed to black out the sun in Sao Paulo on Monday.
The blackout was caused by strong winds that blew smoke across from the smouldering forest in the state of Amazonas and Rondonia - in some cases more than 2,000 miles away - to Brazil's largest city.
It shouldn't need repeating, but the Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world and is therefore utterly vital for storing carbon and helping to reduce the effects of carbon emissions, which accelerate climate change.
Recently, Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro dismissed the head of Inpe after a row over data regarding how much of the forest is being cut down.
Environmentalists claim that Mr Bolsonaro is allowing loggers and farmers to cut down more and more of the forest in order to clear the land.
However, NASA has said that - contrary to Brazilian reports - the actual fire activity in the Amazon basin had decreased. The US space agency said that whilst fires had increased in Amazonas and Rondonia, they had decreased in the states of Para and Mato Grosso.
Whilst wildfires aren't uncommon during the dry season on Brazil, they are also being deliberately started by people who want to illegally deforest areas for use of farming.
Inpe claims to have seen more than 72,000 fires between January and August, the most since they started recording in 2013.
In fact, they've seen more than 9,500 forest fires since last Thursday, most of which were in the Amazon region.
To put that in context, they said that they only saw 40,000 throughout the entirety of 2018.
Inpe researcher Alberto Setzer told Reuters: "There is nothing abnormal about the climate this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little below average,
"The dry season creates the favourable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident."
Ricardo Mello, the head of the Amazon Programme for the World Wide Fund for Nature, said that these fires are 'a consequence of the increase in deforestation seen in recent figures'.
President Bolsonaro's environmental policies have been criticised recently and he has been accused of undoing the conservation work of previous administrations.
Last month, Bolsonaro accused an Inpe director - who was later sacked - of lying about deforestation. However, the agency claim that their data is 95 per cent accurate and their reliability has been backed up by agencies such as the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.
Featured Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory