Wildfires in the world’s largest tropical rainforest are causing so much smoke it is blocking out the sun.
The Amazon rainforest, covering northwestern Brazil and extending into Colombia, Peru and other South American countries, has had a record number of blazes this year – the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has detected 72,843 fires in 2019, 83 per cent higher than in 2018.
Recent satellite images released by NASA also show smoke smothering the South American regions, as the infernos rage on.
Brazil’s Sao Paulo was plunged into darkness as a result of the fires, as smoke from more than 1,700 miles away saw ‘day turned into night’ across the city.
The National Institute of Meteorology said the city is engulfed ‘within a cloud’.
Helena Balbino, an Inmet weatherperson, said:
This is because of this convergence of such different masses. The cold front of the capital, coupled with the mild temperatures coming from the ocean and the warm inland wind, cause this turbulence and this has lowered the level of the cloud. So we are inside a cloud
— Leandro Mota (@leandromota_) August 19, 2019
Josélia Pegorim, Climatempo meteorologist, told Globo:
The smoke did not come from fires from the state of Sao Paulo, but from very dense and wide fires that have been going on for several days in Rondônia and Bolivia. The cold front changed the direction of the winds and transported this smoke to Sao Paulo.
Here in the Greater Sao Paulo region we had the combination of this excess humidity with the smoke, so it gave this appearance in the sky.
As a result of the relentless blazes, Amazonas declared a state of emergency in the south and its capital Manaus and Acre, on the border with Peru, has been on environmental alert since Friday, August 16.
🌎Just a little alert to the world: the sky randomly turned dark today in São Paulo, and meteorologists believe it’s smoke from the fires burning *thousands* of kilometers away, in Rondônia or Paraguay. Imagine how much has to be burning to create that much smoke(!). SOS🌎 pic.twitter.com/P1DrCzQO6x
— Shannon Sims (@shannongsims) August 20, 2019
The Amazon rainforest is a huge asset in the fight against climate change – as one of the world’s biggest carbon stores, it slows down the pace of global warming.
The area hasn’t been prolific for wildfires in the past, but due to an increasing number of droughts and human activities – for example, farmers illegally deforesting land for cattle ranching – has led to a spike in fire numbers.
President Jair Bolsonaro recently fired the head of INPE, Ricardo Galvao, over damning deforestation data, claiming they were inaccurate. Since taking office in January, he’s vowed to develop the Amazon for farming and mining.
Bolsonaro said, as per The Mirror:
I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame. But it is the season of the queimada.
The quemida – translated as ‘burned’ – is the season in which farmers use fire to clear land.
Bolsonaro added he is ‘waiting for the next set of numbers, that will not be made up numbers. If they are alarming, I will take notice of them in front of you.’
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After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He’s now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.