Severe risk of fire in Amazon forests forecast for summer, fall

June 7, 2013 at 4:57 PM
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IRVINE, Calif., June 7 (UPI) -- NASA says researchers using a combination of satellite data and ocean temperature measurements are predicting a severe 2013 fire season for many Amazon forests.

The research team led by Jim Randerson of the University of California, Irvine, has analyzed historical fire data from NASA's Terra satellite along with sea surface temperature data from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to forecast the pending Amazon fire season severity three to six months prior to the onset of the dry season, the space agency reported Friday.

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

Brazil's Mato Grosso, Para, Rondonia and Acre states and the Bolivian departments of Santa Cruz and Pando are projected to have average or above-average fire activity in 2013, they said.

"The confluence of climate and people in these areas increases the risk of widespread fire activity when the fire season severity is elevated," research team member Doug Morton of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said.

"With this forecasting system we're hoping to build some advanced warning about whether the Amazon region is facing a fire year or a flood year," Morton said. "This year, plan for fires."

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