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The Amazon rainforest is on fire: What’s happening and how you can help

A record number of fires have been raging for three weeks

The Amazon rainforest is burning at a record rate. Earlier this month, Brazil declared a state of emergency over the rising number of fires in the region. So far this year, almost 73,000 fires have been detected by Brazil’s space research center, INPE. That marks an 83% increase from 2018 and the highest number on record since 2013, according to Reuters.

What caused the fire?

While the Amazon rainforest is typically wet and humid, July and August — the onset of the dry season — are the region’s driest months, with “activity” peaking by early September and stopping by mid-November, according to NASA.

Fire is often used to clear out the land for farming or ranching. For that reason, a vast majority of the fires can be attributed to humans, Christian Poirier, program director of the nonprofit Amazon Watch, told CNN.

What areas are affected?

Satellite images show fires in the Brazilian states of Amazonas, Rondonia, Para and Mato Grosso. The state of Amazonas is most affected, according to Euronews.

Effects of damage to the Amazon go far beyond Brazil and its neighbors. The area’s rainforest generates more than 20% of the world’s oxygen and 10% of the world’s known biodiversity. The Amazon is referred to as the “lungs of the planet” and plays a major role in regulating the climate. The world would drastically change if the rainforest were to disappear, impacting everything from farms to drinking water.

The World Meteorological Organization, the United Nation’s weather arm, tweeted about the fires Thursday.

“Fires release pollutants including particulate matter & toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides  and non-methane organic compounds into the atmosphere,” the organization said.

How big is the fire?

You can see the smoke from space. The European Union Earth Observation Program’s Sentinel satellites captured images of “significant amounts of smoke” over Amazonas, Rondonia and other areas.

The skies darkened over San Paulo, Brazil, for an hour Monday afternoon after a cold front caused winds to shift and carry smoke from about 1,700 miles away.

Have the fires been put out?

The fires are still raging, but there are reports of scattered rain and thunderstorms on Thursday.

How has the public responded?

Social media started the hashtags #Prayfor Amazonas and #AmazonRainforest. Twitter users criticized media for giving more attention to the fire at Notre Dame and other news than to the rainforest fires. Social media users also called out billionaires for lack of donations.

Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has also faced criticism. People are charging him with lack of action and with encouraging logging and farming in the Amazon. In early July, an anonymous senior Brazilian official told the BBC that Bolsonaro encouraged deforestation.

NASA has been monitoring the fires. Over the past week, the Aqua satellite and Sentinel 3 have been tweeting images of the smoke on social media.

The World Wide Fund for Nature, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Source : Cnet