In the past couple of weeks, thousands of fiery infernos have sparked across the Amazon rainforest, razing tropical vegetation, trees, and the fauna they house.

Since August 15, more than 9,500 new forest fires have started across Brazil, primarily in the Amazon basin. The blazes and the choking smoke clouds they create are visible from space. The NASA satellite image above shows how far the smoke has traveled over the continent.

Global Forest Watch, an organization sponsored by the World Resources Institute to monitor forests and track fires using satellite data, reported more than 109,000 fire alerts in Brazil from August 13 to Thursday.

Those blazes are mapped below.

A map showing every fire that's started across Brazil since August 13.
 Courtesy of Global Forest Watch

This is a record-breaking year of fires in Brazil

Already, 2019 has the highest number of fires observed in Brazil in any year since researchers began keeping track in 2013 — and there are still four months to go.

So far, scientists have recorded more than 74,000 fires in Brazil in 2019. That's nearly double 2018's total of about 40,000 fires. The surge marks an 83% increase in wildfires over the same period of 2018, Brazil's National Institute for Space Research reported.

The largest state in Brazil, Amazonas, declared a state of emergency on Monday.

The smoke plumes from blazes in the Amazon have spread from the state of Amazonas to the nearby states of Pará and Mato Grosso and even blotted out the sun in São Paulo, a city more than 2,000 miles away.

In total, the blazes have created a layer of smoke estimated to be 1.2 million square miles wide. This image from the European Union's Copernicus satellite shows the smoke slicing north to south through Brazil.

Amazon wildfires
Imagery from European Union satellites shows smoke from fires in the Amazon rainforest stretching across Brazil and into other countries.
 European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts

Deforestation could spell disaster for the world's largest rainforest

This week of fires comes on the heels of another worrisome milestone for the world's largest rainforest. July saw the most deforestation ever in a single month in the Amazon, The Guardian reported. The Amazon shrank by 519 square miles, or 1,345 square kilometers. That's an area about 23 times the size of the island of Manhattan.

Data from Brazilian satellites indicated that about three football fields' worth of Amazonian trees fell every minute last month.

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A satellite image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed parts of the western Amazon rainforest on fire on August 12.

The deforestation is directly linked to fires in the Amazon [...]

In the past 50 years, roughly 20% of the Amazon — about 300,000 square miles — has been cut down in Brazil, according to The Intercept.

If another 20% of the Amazon were to disappear, that could trigger a feedback loop known as a dieback, in which the rainforest would turn into an African-savanna-type landscape.

In that situation, the tropical trees — and the fauna they support — would disappear, releasing up to 140 billion tons of stored carbon into the atmosphere and causing an uptick in already rising global temperatures.

Once a dieback starts, the Amazon would be "beyond the reach of any subsequent human intervention or regret," The Intercept reported.


From the Guardian, 23 Aug 019:

International pressure may be the only way to stop the Brazilian government from taking a “suicide” path in the Amazon, one of the country’s most respected scientists has said, as the world’s biggest rainforest continues to be ravaged by thousands of deliberate fires.

The large number of conflagrations – set illegally to clear and prepare land for crops, cattle and property speculation – has prompted the state of Amazonas to declare an emergency, created giant smoke clouds that have drifted hundreds of miles, and sparked international concerns about the destruction of an essential carbon sink.

“Our house is burning,” tweeted the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who called for emergency talks on the subject at this week’s G7 summit. But the response to the crisis has been mixed: while Norway and Germany have halted donations to the Brazilian government’s Amazon fund, the EU has recently signed a trade deal with South America [JBR Note: it has not yet been ratified; France and Ireland and others oppose ratification], and the UK spent this week focusing on post-Brexit business with Brazil.

On Wednesday, the UK trade minister Conor Burns was shaking hands with his counterparts in Brasilia and declaring a desire to “deepen relations”. Asked about the fires, he declined to comment but reportedly said Bolsonaro’s government had “legitimate ambitions to bring prosperity to its people”.

[JBR question: Where do they, all the theys, the psycho-fascist-racist-xenophobic-ultracapitalist theys, FIND people like Burns?????? There seems to be no shortage of them ...]