Intense fire season in Mexico is part of a worldwide trend • Earth.com

Intense fire season in Mexico is part of a worldwide trend

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features smoke streaming from a fire near the border of Oaxaca and Chiapas in southern Mexico.

“As Mexico entered peak fire season in March 2024, dry and warm conditions helped fuel the flames of more than 100 active blazes across the country,” said NASA.

“According to Mexico’s National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR), there were 120 actively burning fires across Mexico on March 27. Preliminary data indicated that fires that day affected more than 7,000 hectares (27 square miles) across 19 of Mexico’s 31 states.”

Fire season in Mexico 

Fire season in Mexico is a period marked by a heightened risk of wildfires, primarily occurring from January through June, with the peak usually observed between March and May. This timing is largely due to the country’s climatic patterns, where the end of the dry season and the beginning of the warmer spring months create conditions ripe for fires. 

These conditions include dry vegetation, which serves as ample fuel for wildfires, and the onset of warmer temperatures, which can exacerbate the risk of fires starting and spreading.

Mexico’s varied topography and climatic zones mean that fire risk and behavior can differ significantly across the country. However, areas with extensive forest cover, such as the pine-oak forests in the northern and central regions, are particularly vulnerable during the fire season. 

Human activities, including agricultural practices such as the clearing of land through burning (known as “slash and burn”), contribute significantly to the ignition of these wildfires. Additionally, accidental fires caused by campfires, cigarettes, or even deliberate arson add to the annual fire count.

Intense fire seasons across the globe 

The phenomenon of more intense fire seasons across the globe is a complex and multifaceted issue that intertwines with climate change, land management practices, and human activities. 

Over the past decades, several regions around the world have experienced unprecedented wildfires in both frequency and intensity. These fires have resulted in devastating impacts on ecosystems, wildlife, air quality, and human settlements.

North America 

In North America, particularly in the United States and Canada, fire seasons have become significantly longer and more destructive. 

The combination of prolonged droughts, higher temperatures, and an increase in the amount of dead and dry vegetation has turned vast areas into tinderboxes, ready to ignite with a single spark. 

Notably, the wildfires in California have set records for their sheer size and the amount of destruction they’ve caused, burning millions of acres and destroying thousands of homes.

Australia 

Australia’s fire season during 2019-2020, known as the Black Summer, was one of the most severe in the country’s history. A prolonged drought and extreme heatwaves contributed to widespread bushfires that burned through millions of hectares, destroyed over 3,000 homes, and led to the loss of at least 33 lives. 

The environmental impact was catastrophic, with significant losses to wildlife and biodiversity, including an estimated billion animals killed.

Amazon rainforest 

In the Amazon rainforest, often referred to as the Earth’s lungs, there has been an alarming increase in fires. These are largely attributed to deforestation and agricultural practices. 

The fires not only contribute to the global carbon emissions but also result in the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of vital ecosystems that are crucial for global climate regulation.

Europe 

Europe has not been spared either, with countries like Greece, Portugal, and Spain experiencing deadly wildfires that have been linked to heatwaves and changing precipitation patterns. The Mediterranean region, in particular, is becoming more susceptible to wildfires as temperatures rise and summers become drier.

Siberia fires

Russia’s Siberia has also seen an increase in fire activity, with massive wildfires engulfing vast areas of forest. The smoke from these fires has reached as far as the United States and Canada, highlighting the global impact of such events. These fires not only release significant amounts of carbon dioxide but also thaw permafrost, releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The increasing intensity and frequency of fire seasons around the world underscore the urgent need for global action on climate change and more sustainable land management practices. As temperatures continue to rise and weather patterns become more extreme, the challenge of managing wildfires and mitigating their impacts becomes increasingly daunting.

The image was captured on March 27, 2024 by the OLI-2 (Operational Land Imager-2) on Landsat 9.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

—–

Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates.

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and Earth.com.

—–

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day