Smoke from hundreds of fires in the Amazon Basin combined with clouds Monday afternoon to plunge a major South American city into darkness.
Numerous fires in Bolivia and the Amazon Basin in Brazil have been creating smoke in recent days that got pushed hundreds of miles by a cold front to Sao Paulo, turning the sky dark.
Below is an excerpt from an article in the Washington Post:
“The smoke [Monday] didn’t come from fires in the state of Sao Paulo, but from very dense and wide fires that have been happening for several days in [the state of] Rondonia and Bolivia,” Josélia Pegorim, a meteorologist with Climatempo, said in an interview with Globo. “The cold front changed direction and its winds transported the smoke to Sao Paulo.”
The news highlighted the number of forest fires in Brazil, which rose by more than 80 percent this year, according to data released this week by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE).
“This central Brazil and south of the Amazon Rainforest region has been undergoing a prolonged drought,” Alberto Setzer, a researcher at INPE, said in an interview with local media outlets. “And there are some places where there has not fallen a drop of rain for three months.”
Most of the Amazon was once considered fireproof, but as climate change and deforestation remake the world, wildfires are increasing in frequency and intensity, recent research has shown.
In the Amazon region, according to NASA, fires are rare for much of the year because wet weather prevents them from starting and spreading. However, in July and August, activity typically increases due to the arrival of the dry season. Many people use fire to maintain farmland and pastures or to clear land for other purposes. Typically, activity peaks in early September and mostly stops by November.
The map above, showing heat and smoke in Brazil and Bolivia on August 14, is the best we could find. More recent satellite imagery has either clouds, or smoke so dense over very large areas that smoke from individual fires couldn’t be distinguished from smoke covering very large areas.