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South America records highest February wildfire emissions since 2003

March 1, 2024
wildfire smoke

Record-breaking wildfire emissions in South America

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) has reported unprecedented levels of wildfire emissions in South America for the month of February, marking a significant milestone in the region’s environmental records.

The northern Amazon rainforest, especially in the Brazilian state of Roraima, experienced high wildfire intensity, contributing to the highest carbon emissions ever recorded for February in Brazil since records began in 2003.

Similarly, Venezuela and Bolivia have seen their highest emissions for the month over the same period.

According to the CAMS Global Fire Assimilation System (GFAS), there has been a noticeable increase in the number of fires and their intensity across tropical South America during the latter half of February.

The regions most affected include northeastern Venezuela, Bolivia, Roraima in Brazil, and Colombia.

The data up to February 27 indicates that Brazil and Venezuela have experienced the highest carbon emissions for the month in the GFAS dataset, with figures reaching 4.1 and 5.2 megatonnes of carbon respectively.

Bolivia also recorded high emissions at 0.3 megatonnes of carbon, despite the peak wildfire season typically occurring in September and October.

The impact of drought on wildfire risk

CAMS Senior Scientist, Mark Parrington, provided insight into the situation: “Many parts of South America have been experiencing drought conditions which has contributed to increased fire risk and resulted in the observed fires.

“Our atmospheric composition forecasts also show that the smoke transport is covering a large area of the region and causing increased air pollution in populated areas.

“We have been monitoring an increase in the number of fires, and their associated emissions during the peak of the fire season for tropical regions of South America, and also further south in Bolivia, in addition to the widely reported fires in Chile and Argentina earlier in February.”

The role of drought conditions in exacerbating the wildfire situation underscores the complex interplay between climate variability and environmental impact.

The increased fire risk, coupled with the spread of smoke, has raised concerns over air quality and public health in affected areas.

CAMS’ contribution to monitoring and decision-making

CAMS continues to play a crucial role in monitoring wildfires around the globe, providing vital information on their location, intensity, and estimated emissions.

This data, which includes insights into smoke transport and its effects on atmospheric composition, is invaluable for citizens, businesses, and stakeholders in making informed decisions.

The accessibility of CAMS data underscores its importance in addressing environmental challenges and mitigating the impacts of wildfires.

FSJA Comment

The recent report from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) highlighting record-breaking wildfire emissions in South America serves as a stark reminder of the escalating environmental challenges facing the region.

The convergence of drought conditions and increased fire intensity underscores the urgent need for comprehensive environmental monitoring and management strategies.

As wildfires continue to affect vast areas, the role of institutions like CAMS becomes increasingly critical in providing the data necessary for informed decision-making.

This situation highlights the importance of global cooperation in addressing climate change and environmental degradation, emphasizing the need for robust policies and actions to mitigate these impacts.

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