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The Amazon is burning – how bad is it?



  Map of active fires in the Brazilian Amazon

Thousands of fires devastate the Amazon rainforest in Brazil – the most intense fires in nearly a decade.

The northern states of Roraima, Acre, Rondônia and Amazonas like Mato Grosso do Sul were particularly affected.

However, it has been shown that images allegedly from the fires ̵

1; including some shared under the #PrayforAmazonas hashtag – are decades old or even in Brazil.

So, what's up and how bad are the fires?

There were many fires this year.

The Brazilian Amazon Rainforest recorded a record number of fires in 2019.

] The National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) states that its satellite data has increased by 85% over the same period in 2018.

The official figures show that in Brazil in the first eight months of the year more than 75,000 forest fires were recorded – the highest number since 2013. Compared to 39,759 in 2018.

Forest fires are in the Amazon during the dry season, which lasts from July to October, often. They can be caused by naturally occurring events, such as lightning strikes, but also by farmers and loggers clearing land for crops or pastures.

Activists say the rhetoric against the environment of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has promoted such tree clearance activities.

In response, longtime climate skeptic Bolsonaro accused non-governmental organizations of triggering forest fires themselves to damage his government's image.

Later he said the government lacked the resources to fight the flames.

The north of Brazil was hit hard.

Most of the worst affected regions are in the north.

Roraima, Acre, Rondônia and Amazonas all posted a strong percentage increase in fires compared to the average for the past four years (2015-2018).

Roraima recorded an increase of 141%, Acre 138%, Rondônia 115% and Amazonas 81%. Mato Grosso do Sul, further south, recorded an increase of 114%.

Amazon, the largest Brazilian state, has declared a state of emergency.

The fires emit large quantities of smoke and carbon.

Plumes of The smoke of the fires has spread in the Amazon and beyond.

According to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Cams) of the European Union the smoke has reached the Atlantic coast. It has even caused the sky in São Paulo to darken – more than 3,200 km away.

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Caption

Some of the forest fires, such as this in Pará, Brazil, extend over several acres

The fires released a large amount of carbon dioxide this year, equivalent to 228 megatons. This is the highest value since 2010.

They also emit carbon monoxide – a gas that is released when wood is burned and has little access to oxygen.

Maps of Cams show that this highly toxic carbon monoxide is transported across the coasts of South America.

The Amazon Basin – home to about three million plant and animal species and one million indigenous people – is critical to global warming regulation as its forests absorb millions of tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

But when trees are felled or burned, their stored carbon is released into the atmosphere and the rainforest's ability to absorb carbon emissions is reduced.

Other countries are also affected by fires.

Some others In the Amazon Basin countries – an area of ​​7.4 million square kilometers – there were also a large number of fires this year.

With more than 26,000 fires, Venezuela had the second highest number, with Bolivia third with more than 17,000.

The Bolivian government has set up a fire-fighting air tanker to extinguish the forest fires in the east of the country. They are distributed so far on 6 km² forest and pasture.

Extra emergency workers have also been sent to the area and wildlife sanctuaries are being set up to escape the flames.

By Mike Hills, Lucy Rodgers and Nassos Stylianou


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