Speta: The Amazon isn't on fire- it's being burnt

Speta: The Amazon isn't on fire- it's being burnt

August 26, 2019 09:04 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Amazon rainforest is not on fire, it is being burnt. Or at least that is how we should be viewing the over 40,000 fires currently burning in Brazil.    

Making the distinction between the two is important, here in the United States wildfires are often a result of arson or an accident and when they occur naturally are viewed as a normal and vital part of the eco-system. 


Yet in Brazil this is not the case, wildfires have been on the increase lately because the weather in the Amazon is becoming drier. This is not a result of climate change or something similar but instead a fundamental weather element: plants and transpiration. 

Millions of acres of rainforest have been on the decline in recent years due to logging and clear cutting to make room for ranching and farming in western Brazil.  

If you look at satellite images of Western Brazil you can see huge swaths of the region completely deforested from space. 

Some areas are as large as the state of Florida. This is a part of the economic expansion of the region, but it comes at a price.  The trees that are being cut down influence the very weather of the Amazon rainforest. 

The large swaths of forest along the Amazon store water which evaporates directly from the plants in the form of transpiration. This forms clouds within the forest and basically its own weather pattern which allows the water to return to the rainforest creating a self-sustained feedback loop keeping the rainforest, rainy. 

Unfortunately, with more and more forest being taken away, atmospheric dynamic is being taken out of the equation and conditions across western Brazil are becoming drier. Thus, the dry season and wildfire season have become longer.  

If you combine that with the aforementioned practices of clear cutting and slash and burn techniques along with illegal land grabs in the area you can see why the number of wildfires in the area has been increasing.

Eventually, it could even increase to a point where a good chunk of the rainforest will become more of a Savannah instead of rainforest with the loss of trees in the area.

Given the vast amount of wildlife supported by the Amazon and the fact it supplies nearly 20% of the world’s oxygen, this is something that not only impacts Brazil but also has an international impact in the near and long-term.  


Robert Speta

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