The natural phenomenon El Niño has caused many areas along the Pacific Rim to experience droughts and other undesired weather fluctuations. Even though the scorching effects of the event in 2015 and early 2016 have slightly reduced, the decrease in rainfall in the Amazon Basin has left the region drier than it has ever been in the past 14 years.
According to Tech Times, such a degree of dryness is mostly due to warmer ocean temperatures in the tropical Pacific and Atlantic oceans that tend to change weather patterns, causing a decline in rainfall in the Amazon area, boosting the risk of fire during the dry months. Although it is still uncertain whether recent El Niño happenings are a consequence of global warming and climate change, the reasons for a high frequency of drought this tropical region of the world has been experiencing may be seeing some dots connecting after all.
Expert at NASA’s Earth Science, Doug Morton, added that this year’s El Niño phenomenon has witnessed the Amazon become more susceptible to wildfires than those recorded in the years 2005 and 2010, brought about by drought.
What are scientists doing to respond to Amazon wildfires?
However, hope is not all lost. Thanks to technological progression, fires are becoming much easier to forecast, which leads to precautionary and preventative measures in place as a response. One integral tool available, jointly established by NASA and the German Aerospace Center, is the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) that monitors changes in terrestrial water storage and provides a proxy for soil and forest dryness.
The essence of this tool is to be able to assess to what extent trees are vulnerable to fire, by observing the amount of moisture in the soil that will be consumed by the trees and evaporated into the atmosphere, contributing to greater humidity and as a result, decreasing the dryness that causes such events.
Another technologic precautionary measure is the web-based tracking platform. Its data is based on nearly real-time monitoring of Amazon fires, updating fire emission estimates from each given forecast region daily using Terra satellite’s Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument, as well as fire emissions data from previous years recorded in the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED).
Furthermore, the University of California, Irvine, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center collaborated on a 2011 development that considers the relationship between climate, measured through sea surface temperatures, and active fire indicators, detected by NASA satellites. The venture was created with the hopes of contributing to forecasting dry season fire activity in the Amazon.
Liana Anderson, a biologist with Brazil’s National Center for Monitoring and Early Warning of Natural Disasters (CEMADEN), explained that wildfire forecasts of about three to six months before peak fire activity are important in identifying most vulnerable areas. This gives them an opportunity to coordinate their plans in support of local efforts.
Researchers from various parts of the world are doing their share to update information and develop tools used to predict, prevent and recover from wildfires that have continuously been plaguing the Amazon, each time worse than before.
Source: Tech Times