Black Skies In São Paulo
Fires in Brazil came into our world’s spotlight on August 19, when São Paulo’s skies turned dark, triggering “Amazon Fires” to trend widely across social media platforms under the hashtag #PrayforAmazonas and spurring discussion about the linkage between Amazonian fires and this phenomenon.
Media outlets began reporting the cause of this unusual event was a combination of 2 interrelated phenomena. The first is the arrival of a cold mass of air, increasing the number of low clouds and fog over São Paulo. The second is as the cold front expanded, wind patterns changed bringing smoke from forest fires in the Amazon region and other parts of South America, thousands of miles away, into the city.
Santiago Gassó, a researcher at NASA said, “There are always fires this time of the year. But the smoke corridor doesn’t form every year for reasons that include the number of fires and its intensity, the type of fuel, the humidity of the soil and meteorological issues.”
What concerns scientists is that 2019 has not been anatypical year in terms of climate events. There’ve been no extreme meteorological events or drought-like El Niño, which would be typically associated with a sharp increase in fires.
Instead, it’s likely that this year’s fires are closely linked to deforestation. IPAM (Amazon Environmental Research Institute) data shows that each of the 10 municipalities with the highest deforestation rates this year is indeed the same ones with the highest number of fire occurrences.
Officials say that this year, the fires have started earlier. Landowners generally slash and burn their lands about a month before the onset of the rainy season. Unfortunately, the rains won’t start before late September and even later in the most northern parts of the Amazon. This cautions that there may be many more fires in the coming weeks.
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