The Amazon rainforest is burning record numbers of fires this year, and now smoke from the expansive flames has been captured on both NASA and NOAA satellites from space. According to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) satellite data showed an 83 percent increase compared to the same period in 2018. The space agency reports its satellite data has detected more than 72,000 fires since January 2019.
How did the Amazon rainforest fires start?
Wildfires often occur in the dry season in Brazil, but this year has been worse than normal, according to INPE.
In addition, fires are deliberately started in efforts to illegally deforest land for cattle ranching.
Cattle ranching is the largest driver of deforestation in every Amazon country, accounting for 80 percent of current deforestation rates.
Amazon Brazil is home to approximately 200 million head of cattle, and is the largest exporter in the world, supplying about one-quarter of the global market.
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The space agency said it had detected more than 72,000 fires between January and August and more than 9,500 forest fires since Thursday, mostly in the Amazon region.
In comparison, there were fewer than 40,000 for the same period in 2018.
Some conservationist have blamed Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for the forest fires, saying he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land.
Mr Bolsonaro said he disagrees with the latest data presented, saying it was the “season of the queimada”, when farmers use fire to clear land.
He said: “I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame.”
The Amazon rainforest has been fire-resistant for much of its history because of its natural moisture and humidity but NASA has said drought and human activities are causing wildfires.
A release from the space agency said: “The intensity and frequency of droughts in turn, have been linked with increases in regional deforestation and anthropogenic climate change.”
Ricardo Mello, head of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Amazon Programme, added the fires were “a consequence of the increase in deforestation seen in recent figures”.
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How long has the Amazon been on fire?
Due to the number of fires in the Amazon rainforest it’s hard to predict exactly when it started.
However, the fires have increased recently, with more than 9,500 infernos since Thursday.
Since January, 72,000 fires have blasted the rainforest, a number that is likely to go up in the coming weeks.