For days now the world has been watching as the Amazon suffers a major blow thanks to a record number of wildfires that have scorched huge swaths of the rainforest. These fires started back in August 13th, 2019, and have since been reported all across the South American continent, affecting all sectors of the Amazon, including those areas of the rainforest that neighbor Brazil. And as outrage from both the public and world leaders continues to be echoed all across both social media platforms and protests in cities around the world, questions have been raised regarding to why these fires occurred at the intensity and sheer size that they did and whether or not the biome will be at greater risk for these sorts of extreme fire seasons in the near-future.
Fires that have been reported in the Amazon from August 13th to August 26th of 2019. Source: Business Insider
Fires are nothing new to the Amazon Basin; the area experiences natural wildfires every year owing to recurring phenomena such as dry spells and lightning strikes. Unfortunately, the region has experienced a sharp increase in annual wildfire episodes not only due to climate change but also due to man-made ones. Deforestation is nothing new and has been rampant in the region for decades as private investors, cattle ranchers, and loggers all converge over large areas of the rainforest and continually remove acres of land on a daily basis by means that include everything from chopping down trees to starting legal (and illegal) forest fires. Indeed, the loose government regulations owing to Brazil’s current administration along with dry spells over the basin have exasperated this year’s number of wildfires to levels that surpass those seen in 2016 and most of this decade.
The fires have indeed gotten so out of control over the Amazon Basin that their sheer size and magnitude are even visible from space, as satellite imagery has suggested. As such, smoke has plagued nearly the entire country of Brazil, with its largest city, Sao Paulo, experiencing intensive cloud cover and dark skies as a result.
Clear skies over the central Amazon basin in July 2019 juxtaposed with much hazier/smoky conditions over the exact same area the following month. Source: CNN/NOAA
Dark skies in the middle of the day over Sao Paulo, Brazil, on August 19th, 2019. Source: Business Insider
Outrage over these wildfires has been noted at the local and national level in Brazil as environmental activists have called out President Bolsonaro and his administration for loosening regulations that would otherwise defend more of the Amazon Rainforest by protesting on the streets of several major Brazilian cities including Sao Paulo. Many protesters and activists have also argued that the current administration has essentially been downplaying most of what has been occurring over the last few weeks, resulting in Bolsonaro suggesting that it’s actually the environmentalists that have started several of the recent wildfires(https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-rainforest-photos-before-after-wildfires-2019-8#environmental-activists-have-been-fighting-to-save-the-rainforest-for-years-here-a-greenpeace-protest-calls-deforestation-a-crime-near-the-brazilian-town-of-claudia-mato-gross-in-2005-23). As for global reactions to the situation, world activists including Leonardo DiCaprio and Shakira have commented on the events that are unfolding in the Amazon and have donated to help fight the wildfires. Moreover, world leaders recently held a G7 Summit in which they have promised to also donate money and provide emergency services to Brazil.
As the rest of the world looks on at what’s currently taking place in the Amazon, many have started to ask how they and their communities can help to preserve the rainforest. Several accredited organizations are out there and have been included in this article. For more information on how you can donate to services committed to help with this crisis,visit:https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/08/241249/amazon-rainforest-fires-how-to-help-donate-organizations
©2019 Meteorologist Gerardo Diaz Jr.