Darkness in Amazonia

August 21, 2019

Smoke, blown in from hundreds of miles away, cloaked Sao Paulo in darkness Monday. (Photo by Leandro Mota)

Washington Post:

In the height of daytime, the sky suddenly blackened, and day became night in Sao Paulo.
Sure, smog is bad in the Western Hemisphere’s largest city, where traffic jams can stretch for dozens of miles. But not this bad. What was going on? Was the end near?
“Apocalypse!” one person cried on Twitter.
“The final judgment is coming!” another added.
“Mordor,” one more person intoned.
Experts tried to puzzle out the cause of the midday darkness on Monday, but their conclusions at times appeared to be conflicting, deepening the mystery. The National Institute of Meteorology saidthe city, which sits at an elevation of 2,500 feet, was “inside a cloud.” Others explained that it was a cold front. MetSul, a Brazilian meteorology company, said the culprit was smoke that had come in from forest fires in Bolivia, Paraguay and remote parts of Brazil.

In fact, it appeared to be a combination of all three factors — clouds, smoke and a cold front — that ushered in the smoke from distance reaches, plunging the city into darkness in the middle of the day.

“The smoke 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.
“Wildfires in the Amazon are not natural events, but are instead caused by a combination of droughts and human activities. Both anthropogenic climate change and regional deforestation are linked to increases in the intensity and frequency of droughts over Amazonia,” British researchers wrote this year in the Conversation.

7 Responses to “Darkness in Amazonia”

  1. rsmurf Says:

    I cannot find one spec of good news about the environment, and this just adds to the gloom.

  2. mboli Says:

    Bolsanaro fired the head of Brazil’s aerospace agency a couple of weeks ago. It was because that is the agency which produces reports of fires and deforestation. (They have a system to detect fires from satellite data.)


  3. mboli Says:

    (Spelling correction. It is annoying that I can’t edit or delete a post.)

  4. redskylite Says:

    What happened to Sting and the great movement to protect rain-forests back in the later 1980’s. I’m sure the Rainforest Foundation Fund is still active but it’s an uphill struggle to keep the lungs of the earth working. I remember a great lecture by Dr. Steve Running, a Regents Professor in the College of Forestry and Conservation at the University of Montana describing the dangers lying ahead (published in 2010). It’s certainly looking bleak for the forests in 2019. Wish someone could remind a couple of American presidents that we haven’t invented an artificial world wide large scale CO2 scrubbing system yet.

    “Scientists warn that Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental policies could result in a worst-case scenario, with severe damage to the Amazon rainforest and to its ecological services, including the loss of the sequestration of vast amounts of stored carbon, leading to a regional and global intensification of climate change.”


    • redskylite Says:

      Dr. Steve Running, a Regents Professor in the College of Forestry and Conservation at the University of Montana, discusses the paradox of why forests in the West are growing faster while simultaneously suffering from higher die-off rates. Running is a member of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and was the lead author on a 2007 report analyzing North America’s contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide and its impacts on the global climate.

  5. redskylite Says:

    Wildfires are burning around the world. The most alarming is in the Amazon rainforest.

    Record heat, drought, and deforestation are contributing to wildfire risk.

    “Even more alarming are the wildfires in the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical forest. It’s an area with torrential rain that almost never burns on its own, yet the blazes have burned for more than two weeks, growing so intense that they sent smoke all the way to São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city.”


  6. redskylite Says:

    “In reality the ecosystem is millions of years old, highly weathered, and therefore depleted of phosphorus in many parts of the Amazon.”


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