Amazon fires viewed from ISS

Amazon rainforest fires … the view from space.

Orbital view of brown forest with rivers, half the area covered in white smoke.

August 24, 2019, image from the International Space Station shows multiple fires burning in the Amazon rainforest. As astronaut Luca Parmitano, who acquired the images from orbit 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, tweeted: #noplanetB.

European Space Agency astronaut Luca Parmitano took this image on August 24, 2019, from his vantage point in the International Space Station. He tweeted this and other images of the fires, captioning them:

The smoke, visible for thousands of kilometers, of tens of human-caused fires in the Amazon forest.

ESA wrote of the images on August 27:

The Amazon basin is home to millions of plants and animals and many indigenous people. It also produces around 20 percent of Earth’s oxygen, for which it is sometimes referred to as ‘the lungs of the world.’ The Amazon rainforest covers large parts of Brazil, as well as parts of Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina, all of which have been affected.

While fires rage in the rainforest, strong winds have carried smoke plumes thousands of kilometres across land and sea, causing a blackout in São Paulo, Brazil, some 2,500 kilometers [1,500 miles] away. Data from Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring System (CAMS) show that smoke has even travelled as far as the Atlantic coast.

Fires are common during the dry season, which runs from July to October. But this year is unlike any other.

Copernicus Sentinel-3 data have helped to detect almost 4,000 fires in August 2019 alone, compared to only 1,110 fires in the same period last year.

This year’s unprecedented blazes are four times the normal amount and are likely due to legal and illegal deforestation for agricultural purposes.

Rising global temperatures are also thought to make the region more susceptible to fire.

Read more about the fires and how satellites are observing them in this article from ESA.

Map of northeast South America with many orange dots mostly in Brazil.

The scale of the Amazon fires can be seen in this map, which is via AFP/Metro.co.uk.

Bottom line: Image acquired from ISS shows fires in the Amazon on August 24, 2019.

Deborah Byrd