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More Fires Now Burning in Angola, Congo Than Amazon (bloomberg.com)
170 points by adventured 25 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments



I see many fellow Brazilians have already made their points here, but I feel some clarification is due.

First of all: forest fires are common here, and they are part of the natural cicle of the forest themselves. The real problem is not the size or count of those fires, but where they are happening. Deforestation has been blatant in Brazil for decades, but years of increased regulation had them on a continuous decreasing trend. Under the new government, however, it has surged again. Some sources mention deforestation areain 2019 might reach double the amount of 2018, although it's hard to trust any such information these days due to political appropriation of data and information channels.

So with more deforestation, these fires are cutting deeper into the forest, into areas previously not touched by fire, some of which may never recover. As I mentioned: such fires are common, but at the edge of the forest where plant and wildlife are adapted to them. The ecosystem of the deeper jungle is completely different, and species from the edges, when not dead, are forced into areas they did not live before, either in or out of the forest. The impact of this movements is hard to predict, but bound to be disastrous.

It would be bad enough if this was related to a more global climate trend or a natural cicle of things. What really hurts though is the fact that many of these fires are, however, intentionally started by people, driven by commercial interest in either developing or farming the land, almost always illegally, and as of recently encouraged by our very government officials.

So, yeah, things are pretty bad, but hey have been so for a while and even if the numbers are worse in Angola and Congo, the conjunction of natural and political causes need to be taken into account.


How are the fires encouraged? What does the different do exactly to promote them?


There's this rethoric of blaming environmental laws for slowing down development or shrinking the economy, along with an almost childish "Europe has burned down their forests now they want ours" too.

Justified by that, the government has aggressively cut budgets for multiple agencies responsible for environmental enforcement and monitoring, including a few high profile cases which led to the heads of INPE (Brasil's NASA) and ICMBio (which manages all National Parks) to resign in frustration.


I found these live maps while researching the Brazilian fires earlier. Not sure if anyone will find them interesting

https://firms.modaps.eosdis.nasa.gov/map/

http://viirsfire.geog.umd.edu/map/viirsMap.php


Thanks, they're so useful. It would be fantastic if one could draw some graphs indicating the amount of fires in the same area for the same time frame (say mid summer) but in different years. Does anyone know if there is such a feature? It would help to investigate politically motivated arsons by finding correlation with various events. The amount of fires we had in Rome/Italy in 2017 raised too many flags in my head; I recall days during that summer where one couldn't turn in a direction where there weren't one or more fires in sight, and I for myself got intoxicated while helping friends to fight one that was getting very close to their home. Some of those arsons were started in mid morning, before 11 am, when the already dim chances to have a spontaneous fire drop below zero, and I perfectly recalled the smell of smoke bombs (very often used at the stadium) while passing by near one just put out by the firefighters. My theory is that some "entity" wanted either to send a message to the new mayor or make her waste as much as of the city funds to fight fires (firefighters, trucks, helicopters, planes etc cost a fortune) so that she and the council would be much easier to fight at the following elections. Putting time and events on paper could help to connect the dots.


This site has the data from 2003-2019 in the Amazon region: https://www.globalfiredata.org/forecast.html?fbclid=IwAR1PLY...


Note that one of the alarming facts is that the fire season is just starting.


Interesting maps. I wonder how they can tell there's a fire. Also, what's the false hit rate? Interestingly enough, the FIRMS data has 2 fires in my town, not 10 miles from where I live, and I don't believe there were any actual fires in the past day. Unless some redneck was making a heck of a burn pile....


Excellent resources. Thank you.


Anyone have a reference for fire area in all these places? All the stories I’ve seen use “number of fires” which seems useless to figure out severity/comparisons.


I think the point is that these are slash and burn ag fires, rather than the big uncontrolled fires serve been seeing in California. So total area might be relatively low per fire, but gives a sense of how fast the major rainforest is being converted to agriculture... A total land area burnt figure would be nice, though.


I've been keeping tabs on various atmospheric (and ocean and space) conditions via the Nullschool Earth viewer: https://earth.nullschool.org/

Different conditions and sensors can be selected, including both particulat (PM2.5 especially) and CO concentrations, both of which are strongly (though not exclusively) associated with wildfires. SO4 is another combustion-related emission, though also associated with power plants, shipping (major shipping lanes are very sharply visible), and volcanic erruptions (see especially the Kiril Islands, north of Japan).

Looking at PM2.5, Here's the current view over Brazil:

https://earth.nullschool.net/#2019/08/24/1700Z/particulates/...

And over Congo:

https://earth.nullschool.net/#2019/08/24/1700Z/particulates/...

And a year ago, 24 August 2018, over ...

Brazil:

https://earth.nullschool.net/#2018/08/24/0500Z/particulates/...

Congo:

https://earth.nullschool.net/#2018/08/24/0500Z/particulates/...

You can see other sensor information or skip forward or back a few days or weeks to see what trends are like.

I'd not done this until just now, and frankly, it appears that last year's smoke activity was actually greater, though the 2019 fires may have been worse several days ago (there's been pronounced global political backlash).

The "day of burning" was the 19th as I recall, let's look back a few days ... OK, unlike the timeslices above, this one is selected as a more active capture, on August 19, 2019, though a few later periods are comparable:

https://earth.nullschool.net/#2019/08/20/0300Z/particulates/...

OT: Watching for unusual activity can be interesting. For example, it appears one of the East African Rift volcanos may just have lit up in Ethiopia, probably Erta Ale (the most active continuously errupting volcano on Earth), though there are others in the general vicinity:

https://earth.nullschool.net/#2019/08/24/1500Z/chem/surface/...

(All Nullschool links should be to date-anchored snapshots. You can expand the controls by tapping "Earth". "Now" will show current / most recently reported conditions.)


Thanks for the links. Very interesting.

> I'd not done this until just now, and frankly, it appears that last year's smoke activity was actually greater

Someone linked to a NASA page a few days ago that said the same thing.

"As of August 16, 2019, satellite observations indicated that total fire activity in the Amazon basin was slightly below average in comparison to the past 15 years".

http://web.archive.org/web/20190820090023/https://earthobser...

Since the news story broke they have updated it, saying it was updated to clarify sources yet they substantially changed what they have said:

"Editor’s Note: This story was updated on 22 August 2019 to clarify our data source."

The live page now reads:

"As of August 16, 2019, an analysis of NASA satellite data indicated that total fire activity across the Amazon basin this year has been close to the average in comparison to the past 15 years. "

https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145464/fires-in-bra...

I would have been a lot more honest to say "we incorrectly stated that fires were below average and have updated our position".


Wow, side note, compare China/SE Asia PM2.5 to the rest of the world.


Yeah, that's pretty stunning. Sulfur Oxide emissions also.

Though if you hit up January and look at SO4 emissions over the US and Europe, they're pretty terrifying as well.

Spotting wildfires by PM2.5 emissions is a part-time hobby, as is looking at MSLP and watching cyclonic storms developing. It looks as if the Atlantic hurricane season may start cooking off in the next week or so.

Not all channels have forecast values, but temps, winds, pressures, and precip do, so you can roll out a few days to see what the models are projecting. I've followed (and anticipated) most of the big storms over the past few years. Some false starts (a lot of swirls never really develop), but it was painfully obvious that Harvy and Florence were going to be massive storms.

In the Pacific, the unrelenting assaults on the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, and mainland China are impressive.


China tends to buy light crude instead of light sweet crude, hence the oil and derived fuels have more sulfur than is typical for European or American vehicles, industry, etc.

This is something of a problem when a country with as many people as China and an economy as growth-oriented as China's is, uh, firing on all cylinders.


What is a good source of data for spotting wildfires? Any APIs that can give me hot spots in a region?


Generally, I'll take a look at the PM2.5 channel on occasion. Swapping that for CO (carbon monoxide) is usually a good confirmation.

While wood smoke contributes a lot of PM2.5, other sources can as well -- dust over the Sahara (and much of the Atlantic), salt spray from hurricanes, and a few others, which aren't direction or at all combustion related.

CO tends to hover near urban areas -- you'll spot concentrations especially near Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.

Sulfur Dioxide is also related to combustion, usually heavy fuel oils. Shipping traffic lights up especially, but so do industrial sources (generators), many volcanos, and some others I haven't worked out.

Nullschool doesn't have an IR channel, but Nasa's Modis can turn that up. There are generally national or regional wildfire websites, particularly for the US, Canada, and Australia, as well as California and other western US states.

(Fire activity so far this year has been pretty low in the US.)

If you spend a few weeks looking at data (or browsing through historical data), you get a pretty good idea of what patterns are typical.

Note also: some sensors / channels get recallibrated from time to time. There was a big adjustment in CO2 measurements a year or so back, which kind of freaked me out. Whilst CO2 concentrations are gradually increasing, they did not take a massive jump in the past 5 years, despite appearing to do so from the Nullschool history.

Also, as noted, sometimes stuff shows up that's not fires. The current Ethiopian volcano erruption would be a case in point (I think it's a volcano, seems very likely).


> major shipping lanes are very sharply visible

once you're in international waters, you get to burn whatever cheap dirty fuel you want, without regulation.

.. just another problem to add to the list


Besides this, there are reports from serious agencies (NASA is one of them) stating that what is happening on Amazon is on par with what has been happening at least in the previous 15 years (I think that's how far their data goes). [1]

I am lead to believe that all the media attention in this past week to the problem, is a mix of political staging and sensacionalism. If it was really due to environmental concerns, the same responses we are seeing now, would have already happened many years ago under Lula and Dilma governments, given that the scale of the problem is the same.

[1] https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145464/fires-in-bra...


The report that you've cited is more than 10 days old which is like an eternity for a spreading wildfire. Here is a more recent report from the same source [1], published on Aug 19th. Here is the relevant part:

>At this point in the fire season, MODIS active fire detections in 2019 are higher across the Brazilian Amazon than in any year since 2010. The state of Amazonas is on track for record fire activity in 2019.

[1] https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/145498/uptick-in-am...


[flagged]


The ecology of our planet doesn't care about the political leaning of whoever is burning their forests or polluting the planet. Global environment changes exactly the same when it was the hard-left of Lula and Dilma burning Amazon, or when it is now the hard-right of Bolsonaro doing the same.

The real problem here, is that some people are only interested in hearing nice words from whoever is presiding a country, not in what consist the actual concrete actions of a government.


Whilst true action is preferred, lip service at least doesn't further encourage and shield further harmful activity, though it may impair true reforms.

Though it may be an ironic truth that Bolsanaro's intransigence could bring about greater action through the international pressure. Something of a political equivalent of Cunningham's Law.


Hard left? Seriously. They were center left if anything.


When would be an appropriate time for people to become aware of the problem and start caring? I don't see how the motivation matters. The problem is real even if most people weren't aware of it until now.


My point is that, at least other governments, were aware of it for a long time. In my opinion they are only raising the concern now for political gain (at least in cases like Macron).

But I agree, let's do it now, it really needs to be done as soon as possible, but, it can't depend its continuation and the countries it gets applied to, on whatever political wing is in power there.

The action needs to be global, with clear rules, and applied on every case, no exceptions.


> When would be an appropriate time for people to become aware of the problem and start caring?

Now is as good a time as any. What doesn't help the discussion is making it about the current administration when this is a problem that spans multiple administrations on both ends of the political spectrum.

It's the same for policies that span the Trump and Obama administrations (and probably the W Bush and Clinton administrations too).


Is there any discussion around the extent of the macro climactic effect of many wildfires burning simultaneously around the globe? How much will these events contribute to warming?


Probably not much. Trees grow back, clouds reflect light, and the actual heat release is not so large. Krakatoa cooled the climate for comparison. The impact on ecosystems is more severe.


[My comments are not welcome here, I get it. I have been banned from continuing to post here so I will remove these offending posts to prevent further perceived degradation to the discussion.]


I feel like someone should tell you that you haven't actually provided any statistics to your own statements. And you simply disputed everything that anyone said by stating they had no resources. Just saying.


I may take your comment wrong, but i feel like everybody’s becoming a bit hysterical regarding climate warming. I feel like media are surfing on population fears ( as usual) but that for some reason, the scientific minds are completely unable to take a step back, and keep their cool.

Why do you think a small percentage increase on natural forest fires happening every year or so will have any kind of meaningful worldwide effect on temperature ?


It's a legitimate question, which you do not provide any evidence to refute. Fires do contribute to climate change because they convert stored carbon into atmospheric carbon. A question is how much do they contribute. Fires are also natural (although not in the Amazon or Congo so much!) so it's not like you could eliminate them entirely anyway.


I don't think that necessarily -- I am curious whether it's a possibility, though.

Wildfires are a rapidly growing source of air pollution. The black + brown carbon aerosols from forest fires can heat the atmosphere significantly [1]. We've seen that emissions from forest fires can effect climate on a global scale.

Climate models attempt to account for heating due to forest fires. But, I'm curious if it's possible that we've underestimated the severity of forest fires in those models.

[1] https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/csd/factsheets/csdWildfiresFIREX.p...


Coastlines are surging and eroding. Today. Right now. This is not a fictional problem.


Just to give you some perspective on the scale of sea level rise, which has been occurring since the end of the ice age: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Post-Glacial_Sea_Lev...


[My comments are not welcome here, I get it. I have been banned from continuing to post here so I will remove these offending posts to prevent further perceived degradation to the discussion.]


« Small negative inputs into a system can have dramatic, quickly-shifting consequence«

Or, you could consider that earth climate has proven to be resistant enough to natural catastrophies for life to evolve for millions of years.

I’m not saying i’m right, but there’s no reason to have those huge headlines in news, as well as international threats to brazil just because this year’s fires are higher that last year ( but equal to those of a few years ago).


>>Or, you could consider that earth climate has proven to be resistant enough to natural catastrophies for life to evolve for millions of years.

The Earth has never had a massive industrial human civilization on it until the last ~200 years.


i think the subject was forest fires, and not really human based CO2 emission from industry and oil...


These fires are set by humans to make land for farming, so it is human based CO2 emissions from industry.


The Minister of the Environment of Brazil tweeted the same article. https://mobile.twitter.com/rsallesmma/status/116526244201383...

(Yesterday, he said the Amazon should be monetized. With no other business plan besides a vague desire for increased ecotourism, the fires are the first step towards monetization.)


> Yesterday, he said the Amazon should be monetized. With no other business plan besides a vague desire for increased ecotourism, the fires are the first step towards monetization

Mind sharing the source?


Paywalled (FT) https://www.ft.com/content/f791bbc6-c2c3-11e9-a8e9-296ca6651...

> “The fact is that laws and regulations that were enacted and used for the past 10 or 20 years were too restrictive to the development of Amazon areas. That is why people go over to the illegal activities, to the criminal activities, because they don’t have a space to do something within the law,” Ricardo Salles said in an interview with the Financial Times.


Can someone explain why the amazon area needs to be developed at all? If there is no opportunity for development in the amazon area, people should move to where the opportunities are, rather than destroying such a unique and valuable area.


Well, we live in a capitalist society where accumulating riches is everyone's main objective.

Brazil was a great project called the Amazon Fund. It would improve the lives of the people of the region, without destroying the forest. The fund was supported by Norway and German. The far-right government didn't like that money were not destined to the big agro-business and is closing it. Literally throwing money away.


I like the idea! Tourism is a great way to fund preservation.


This can work for smaller areas. Tourists get to see the result of preservation because can experience almost the full extent of the territory. However, for a larger area of which most parts are boring, unsafe and hard to reach, it's hard to cover preservation with such funds.

Bolsonaro is unhappy with one such arrangement, covering a much smaller area: visitors pay a $50 fee, collected by the federal government, to enter the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha for a 10 day stay. He wants to the abolish the fee.

Given his general outlook on taxes, I don't see how tourism could fund preservation, except for increasing its scale to a predatory level.

https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/cotidiano/2019/07/taxa-de-fern... (in Portuguese)


But doesn't air travel generate a lot of carbon?

I heard a quote a couple days ago that was along the libes of: A flight from NY to LA generates as much emissions as a person does all year.

But it wasn't clear to me if that the entire jet or one travel's slice of the jet; vs what they expend otherwise.


Doesn't help that their policies resulted in Germany and Norway freezing their investments to a Fund that did precisely that, subsidize the creation of sustainable business models in the Amazon

https://www.npr.org/2019/08/23/753836508/why-norway-and-germ...


I’m picking it’s something automated that’s gone astray as immediately below the article is a link to Amazons stock price. “In this article AMZN AMAZON.COM INC 1,749.62USD-55.98-3.10%”


I’d imagine the recent sale of Amazon Fire products is having similar unfortunate behaviour.


It's always interesting to see what gets put into the news ahead of the big meetups like G7, and how that dovetails with the narrative that is being pushed.

Of course, this destruction of rainforest is not a good thing, but it is not a new thing.


I hear there are people protesting outside embassies about the Amazon fires. I agree with that, but I hope people carry it through to protesting Australian embassies aswell. We're just as guilty of destroying the Great Barrier Reef for profit (I'm Australian). Seems unfair to single out Brazil.


I thought the bleaching of the GB reef was due to higher nitrates in the water runoff as well as temperature rising.



I think we are seeing the weaponization of climate hysteria being used for regime change of the Jair Bolsonaro government. Not a fan of Jair Bolsonaro or burning forests, just making that point.


I doubt there will be any regime change, it’s just a few loudmouths on twitter overestimating the EU’s ability to bully Brazil, much like Trump overestimated the US’s ability to bully Mexico. China, Japan, India, and maybe even a post-Brexit UK will have no problem picking up the demand if Europe “retaliates”. Dictatorships thrive on this kind of conflict and mistrust.


I can't read the article, what's up with fires? Fires are also a natural part of wild forest renewal. Are there unusally more fires worldwide this year?


They aren’t necessarily naturally triggered, and post-burn the land may be misused into industrial agriculture rather than restorative/forest regrown.

Start here: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/democraciaabierta/leaked-do...


Why do you think they're getting less attention?


Torn between, "Glad to see that, 'This news topic concerning death nd destruction is nearing the end of its cycle, let's see if we can extend it a bit by finally highlighting the problems that have sorely needed solving even longer in Africa,' is still a thing" and, "Someone wants to take the heat off of Bolsonaro using the tried-and-true method of exclaiming, 'Yeah well African governments are doing even worse!'".


Not everything is a grand conspiracy. In fact, most things are not. This is most likely getting attention now, because it's related to the Amazon fires which successfully got our attention.


It doesn't have to be a conspiracy. Just an annoyingly prevalent viewpoint among journalists. (See also: referring to things happening in specific locations Nigeria, Sudan, DRC, etc. as happening in "Africa".)




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