Unprecedented fire activity continues in the Pantanal • Earth.com

Unprecedented fire activity continues in the Pantanal

Unprecedented fire activity continues in the Pantanal. Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features the world’s largest tropical wetland area, the Pantanal in South America, where fires have left behind large burn scars that can are visible from space.

According to NASA, uncontrollable fire is a new challenge in the Pantanal that has only emerged in the past few years. Fires have been burning sporadically in the region since the beginning of 2020, but fire activity surged in July and August, which is the beginning of the dry season.

The nonprofit Instituto Centro de Vida reports that there were 4,200 hotspots in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso in August of 2020. This number is exponentially greater than hotspots observed in previous years, including 71 in August of 2018 and 184 in August of 2019.

By September 9, 2020, fires had burned an estimated 9,300 square miles of the Pantanal region, according to Douglas Morton, chief of the biospheric sciences branch at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. 

“That is an extraordinary amount – more than 10 percent of the Pantanal – and we still have several weeks to go until the start of the wet season,” said Morton. “The Pantanal has had fires before, but what is happening this year is extreme and unprecedented in the satellite era.”

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer


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