As the Amazon forest fires rage on, US space agency NASA said that 2019 has seen an increase in the number forest fires in the Amazon region in Brazil. NASA’s data also showed that the fires have led to an increase in the carbon monoxide levels in the atmosphere.
NASA satellites which have been tracking the fire activity confirmed that there has been an increase in the number and intensity of fires in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest in 2019. NASA has called 2019 as the active fire year in the region since 2010.
“August 2019 stands out because it has brought a noticeable increase in large, intense, and persistent fires burning along major roads in the central Brazilian Amazon,” explained Douglas Morton, chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
According to NASA, while drought plays a role in making the Amazon forest fires worse, the timing and location of fires, which are taking place early in the 2019 dry season are more in line with land clearing techniques, than just drought.
NASA’s primary tool for fire detections is the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on the Terra and Aqua satellites. According to NASA, the state of Amazonas is on track for record fire activity in 2019, which is not reassuring news, since the Amazon forest is considered to be the lungs of the world and provides nearly 20 per cent of the Earth’s oxygen.
Data from NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder or AIRS instrument, which is on the Aqua satellite, also showed that movement of carbon monoxide in the higher levels of the atmosphere due to these forest fires.
According to NASA’s press statement, carbon monoxide at an altitude of 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) from August 8-22, 2019 shows the plume is growing in the northwest Amazon region. The increasing levels of carbon monoxide in the air are worrying because as NASA points out this pollutant gas can travel large distances, and persist in the atmosphere for about a month.
While carbon monoxide at high altitude does not impact the air we breathe, but “strong winds can carry it downward to where it can significantly impact air quality,” explains NASA, adding that the gas plays role in climate change as well.