Amazon Fire Season Intensifies; Shifts to Raging Forest Fires

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Forest Fire in the Brazilian Amazon (Mato Grosso). Data: Planet.

We have documented 1,650 major fires in the Brazilian Amazon this year, and well over half (60%) have occurred in September.*

We have been detecting around 62 major fires a day during September, relative to 18 in August (and 2 in July).

Moreover, we flag the major spike in Amazon forest fires, defined here as human-caused fires in standing forest.

We found over 700 forest fires, which now account for 43% of all major fires, up from 13% in August (and just 1% in July).

We roughly estimate that 4.6 million acres (1.8 million hectares) have been impacted by these forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon.

The satellite image to the right is just one example of a recent major forest fire in the Brazilian Amazon. Below, for greater context, we show a before and after panel of that same fire.

Many of the major fires (49%) continue to burn recently deforested areas, defined here as areas where the forest was previously and recently cleared (between 2018 and 2020) prior to burning. This percentage, however, was much higher earlier in the fire season (For example, 84% in July).

Check out Mongabay’s real-time Brazilian Amazon fire tracker based on our analysis.

*The data, updated through September 20, is based on our novel real-time Amazon Fires Monitoring app, which is based on the detection of elevated aerosol emissions that indicate the burning of large amounts of biomass (defined here as a “major fire.”

Satellite Images of Amazon Forest Fires

The following high-resolution satellite images (courtesy of Planet) show the before (left panel) and after (right panel) of a recent major fire in the Brazilian Amazon (Mato Grosso state). Further below is another panel zooming out to show the surrounding matrix of forest fires, recently deforested area fires, and cropland fires.

 

Acknowledgements

The app was developed and updated daily by Conservación Amazónica (ACCA). The data analysis is led by Amazon Conservation in collaboration with SERVIR Amazonia.

Citation

Finer M, Vale H, Walker K, Villa L, Nicolau A, Ariñez A  (2020) Amazon Fire Season Continues to Intensify in September. MAAP.

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