Fire activity surges in the southern Amazonas state of Rondônia •

Fire activity surges in the southern Amazonas state of Rondônia

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features large smoke plumes near the border of the Brazilian states of Amazonas and Rondônia.

According to NASA, since the 1970s, tree clearing in the Amazon basin has reduced the size of the Amazon rainforest by roughly 17 percent – an area about the size of Texas and Louisiana combined.

Satellite imagery suggests that the rate of deforestation has been accelerating in the past two years, with a recent surge in fire activity

“Fire activity across the Amazon region has spiked since late July 2021, driven primarily by deforestation fires,” said Douglas Morton, chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“This is clearly the case for northern Rondônia, where our analysis shows that 80 percent of fire detections from the satellites are associated with deforestation fire events.”

The experts explained that deforestation fires in this area are notable for their size and intensity. 

“What is happening there is nothing like the small-scale clearing done by families that was common decades ago,” explained Morton. “These newer clearings are well beyond the scale of what a family could do. We have already identified 10 deforestation fire events in Rondônia that are larger than 50 square kilometers – meaning each one is larger than a combined 7,000 soccer fields.”

The researchers have found that fire activity has also accelerated in recent weeks in the southern Amazonas state. 

“We’re seeing a resurgence of deforestation in an old frontier (Rondônia) spilling into a new frontier in southern Amazonas based on recent changes in road access and demand for agricultural land,” said Morton. 

“These are the same places where other tools that detect forest removal – like Brazil’s satellite-based PRODES and DETER systems – have shown major losses in recent years.”

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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