Nearly 3,000 fires in the Brazilian Amazon, a record for the month of February

The Amazon Brazilians registered almost 3,000 Fires in February, a record for this month of the year that experts link directly to climate change and agricultural activity.

A day after the end of the month, satellite data showed 2,940 active fire outbreaks, 67% more than the previous maximum of 1,761 fires in February 2007, according to data released Wednesday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

This is the worst record for the second month of the year since data collection began in 1999.

The number quadruples the number of fire outbreaks in February last year (734).

“The climate factor certainly plays a fundamental role in this anomaly of fires” concentrated in the north of the region, Ane Alencar, scientific director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM Amazonia), told AFP.

According to INPE records, Roraima (North) state, where the Yanomami Indigenous Reserve is located, is the most affected by fires, with 2,001 active outbreaks. For reference, in all of 2023, the INPE recorded 2,605 outbreaks in this vast area bordering Venezuela.

Ecological damage

“We have seen the Earth break temperature records. Every year is the hottest year, and this has a synergy with climate phenomena such as droughts, Alencar said.

Between June and November last year, the Amazon was hit by a devastating drought. It affected millions of people across the Amazon basin, sparked enormous forest fires, reduced or disappeared key water reserves and wreaked havoc on wildlife.

According to Alencar, this environmental stress creates “all the necessary conditions for every fire to develop into a major fire”, which becomes very complex to combat due to the geographical conditions.

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“However, the fires were probably started by people in their agricultural practices,” said the expert from IPAM, a non-governmental organization that is part of the Climate Observatory network.

While experts linked this historic drought in the Amazon to the effects of the El Niño meteorological episode, a study published in late January by scientists at World Weather Attribution (WWA) said climate change caused by air pollution was the main culprit.

Record emissions since 2003

The government of leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva also blames the “criminals” who set the fires to clear the land and prepare it for agriculture or livestock farming.

Lula promised to end illegal deforestation in Brazil by 2030 after returning to power in January 2023.

In his first year in office, tree destruction in the Amazon fell by half compared to 2022.

For its part, the European monitoring service Copernicus drew attention on Wednesday to the situation of forest fires in Brazil, Venezuela and Bolivia, which are causing carbon emissions into the atmosphere that have not been known for two decades.

“High wildfire intensity and emissions were observed in the northern Amazon rainforest, particularly in the Brazilian state of Roraima, resulting in the highest CO2 emissions recorded in February since at least 2003, not only for Roraima but for Brazil as a whole .” Copernicus said in a statement.


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