74,155: That’s the number of forest fires that have occurred this past year in the Amazon Rainforest. The number is courtesy of the Brazil National Institute of Space Research, which calculated that the number of forest fires is up 84% from this time last year.
Wildfires in heavily forested areas of the world aren’t something new. As recent as 2018, forest fires occurred in Northern California, decimating large swaths of forestry and wiping entire towns off the map. The same year, Sweden experienced the most serious wildfires in the country’s history. Earlier in the Summer, wildfires ravaged parts of the Arctic, from Siberia to Alaska, as temperatures surged upward of 10 degrees Celsius above normal.
Wildfires have occurred on almost every continent. Wildfires are often devastating, but the fires that have been burning in the Amazon Rainforest are different. In fact, they can be perplexing if you don’t understand the factors contributing to their cause. The region has been dubbed a rainforest for a reason—it gets tons of rain. In fact, areas of the rainforest can get up to 400 inches of rain a year. The air is often extremely saturated, with an average humidity of anywhere from 70-90%. This keeps the forest extremely fertile, and makes it a great home for a ton of animal species, many of which have yet to be discovered.
Despite the Amazon being one of the most prominent regions in the world for biodiversity, the climate has slowly been changing. The Amazon Rainforest experienced the worst drought in over 100 years in 2005, according to the United Nations. The drought was likely to have been linked to climate change, but the warming earth is unlikely the only reason the forest is burning. In fact, deforestation is a huge factor in the rapid and unprecedented burning of the forest. The Amazon has been highly sought after for business ventures for decades, but previous efforts to conduct illegal operations in the rainforest have been thwarted by government intervention, both nationally and from environmental activists worldwide. However, an administrative change came with the election of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has publicly advocated for illegal burning of forestry in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest.
Illegal activities in the Amazon Rainforest are playing a massive role in the wildfires. This type of natural disaster is uncommon in the Amazon. Wildfires are not as commonplace as in parts of the U.S. or Europe. However, cutting down trees and leaving them to dry causes the fire-resistant forest to become a fire-prone region, according to a representative from the Rainforest Alliance. If this continues, the world’s largest rainforest, which allows humans to thrive, by producing some 20% of the world’s oxygen, will be no more, and this will have clear and disastrous effects on everyone, everywhere.
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©2019 Weather Forecaster Jacob Dolinger