Saturday, June 8, 2013

Amazon forest fire risk to increase in 2013

NASA: University and NASA researchers predict that the severity of the 2013 fire season will be considerably higher than in 2011 and 2012 for many Amazon forests in the Southern Hemisphere. The outlook is based on a fire severity model that produced a successful first forecast in 2012.

The model, produced by a group led by Jim Randerson of the University of California, Irvine, considers historical fire data from NASA's Terra satellite, along with sea surface temperature data from NOAA. Previous research has shown that sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific and Atlantic oceans can be used to forecast the pending Amazon fire season severity three to six months prior to the onset of the dry season.

As of March 2013, surface waters of the tropical north Atlantic Ocean remained warmer than average, while Pacific Ocean temperatures declined from a peak in late fall. These conditions are consistent with increased fire risk across the southern portion of the Amazon later this summer and early fall.

Brazil's key fire states, Mato Grosso and Pará, account for the majority of all burning activity in the Amazon region. For the 2013 season, the model shows that fire activity in these two states is projected to be above average compared to 2001-2012. Other important burning regions in the southern Amazon, such as the Brazilian states of Rondônia and Acre, and the Bolivian departments of Santa Cruz and Pando, are also projected to have average or above-average fire activity in 2013.

"The confluence of climate and people in these areas increases the risk of widespread fire activity when the fire season severity is elevated," said Doug Morton of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who works with Randerson and colleagues on the forecast....

Dials indicate regions in the southern Amazon forest predicted to have below-average fire activity (green) and above-average activity (orange and red) during the 2013 dry season, relative to the 2001-2012 mean. Credit: UC Irvine

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