El Nino Could Lead To More Intense Fire Season In Amazon This Year

Posted: Jun 30 2016, 7:37am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 30 2016, 4:29pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


El Nino Could Lead to More Intense Fire Season in Amazon This Year
Credit: Yang Chen, University of California, Irvine

In 2016, the wildfire risk in the Amazon rainforest is higher than any dry season in recent years.

As the climate gets warmer, moisture and precipitation levels changed significantly. Wet areas become wetter and dry areas become even drier. That’s exactly what happens afters the occurrence of phenomenon known as El Nino.

El Nino is a temporary warm phase which can alter weather patterns around the globe and could bring extreme changes like unseasonal heavy rain and prolonged droughts in many areas. Based on El Nino conditions in 2015 and early 2016, researchers claim that Amazon could have a more intense fire season this year.

El Nino has contributed to less rainfall during the wet season in the Amazon earlier this year which has made the rainforest more susceptible to the wildfires in later dry months of July and October. In fact, the risk is even higher than 2005 and 2010 drought years when wildfires burned large areas of Amazon rainforest. Severe dry conditions at the start of the dry season have set the stage for extreme wildfires across the southern Amazon this year. 

“When trees have less moisture to draw upon at the beginning of the dry season, they become more vulnerable to fire, and evaporate less water into the atmosphere," said Jim Randerson from University of California, Irvine who was one of the collaborators to build forecast model. “This puts millions of trees under stress and lowers humidity across the region, allowing fires to grow bigger than they normally would.”

To predict the intensity of wildfires in the Amazon, researchers used terrestrial storage data to track changes in groundwater during the dry season. The warmer the sea surface temperature in the tropical Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the higher the risk of severe wildfires in the region.

Currently, NASA and UC-Irvine are working with South American official and scientists to identify the areas with higher fire probability. So the plans can be crafted and the effects of wildfires could be minimized. 


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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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