Smoke from wildfires turns day into night in Sao Paulo, Brazil

fires wildfires Brazil Bolivia
Map showing heat (the red dots) and smoke in Bolivia and Brazil detected by a satellite August 14, 2019. Click to enlarge.

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.

Sky lantern sets fire to Olympic venue in Rio

The track and roof of the velodrome used in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro were damaged after a sky lantern landed on the facility. Much of the roof was heavily damaged and photos from TV network Globo showed a 20 to 30 meter section of the track had burned. Wood from Siberia was used to construct the track surface which made it one of the last venues in the Rio Olympics to be ready.

Sky lanterns, also known as Chinese lanterns, are plastic or paper bags lofted by the heat created by burning fuel at the bottom. After they are launched the perpetrator has no control and the dangerous devices are carried wherever the wind blows. Too often they get caught on trees, roofs, cell phone towers, or land on the ground when the flames are still active and start damaging fires. They are banned in most U.S. states and many countries, including Brazil.

Some areas enact specific laws or regulations prohibiting sky lanterns, but they are banned in any state or city that adopts the 2015 edition of the International Fire Code.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Andrew.
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Wildfire burns near two Olympic venues in Brazil

A wildfire burned close to several Olympic venues in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Brisbane Times:

A forest fire on Monday placed the Olympic mountain biking venue in jeopardy, but games organisers insist the threat has passed.

Spectators arrived at the Olympic hockey centre late on Monday afternoon to find smoke and ash blowing over the venue ahead of the women’s quarter-final between Great Britain and Spain.

The conditions were a result of a fire which a Rio 2016 spokeswoman said started about 4pm near the Deodoro sports complex, home of the equestrian, rugby sevens, shooting, BMX, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, women’s basketball and modern pentathlon at these Games.

The spokeswoman said that the fire became more aggressive, placing the mountain bike centre in danger less than a week before it hosts the cross-country races of this year’s calendar.

But according to the spokeswoman, a change of wind direction moved the fire out of harm’s way. She said there had been no injuries as a result of the fire, with firefighters continuing in their attempts to extinguish it as of late on Monday night.

Another fire last week was near the rugby sevens venue.