Sunday, August 29, 2010


The "fire devil" sweeping across a burning field in Araçatuba (São Paolo State) is emblematic of the fact that thus far 2010 has been an especially difficult year for fires in Brazil. Satellite monitoring of fire incidents or "hotspots" reveals that across the January to August period, there have be twice the number of fires in 2010 as in 2009.

The more populous Northeast and South (including the vast agricultural areas) have been hardest hit by the prolonged drought but the dryness and fires have been spreading across Amazônia as well.

Mongabay reports:
Alberto Setzer, coordinator of INPE's fire monitoring program, blamed drier and warmer conditions, as well as socio-political factors, like higher commodity prices and upcoming national elections. Afraid of alienating key supporters in the agricultural sector, Setzer told Terra Brasil that politicians are laying off environmental law enforcement until after elections. Uncertainty about the Brazilian environmental legislation - including a possible weakening of the country's strict Forest Code - might also be having an impact.

Fires in the Brazilian Amazon are generally set by developers opening logged forests, deforested scrub, and grassland for pasture and agriculture. Under dry conditions fires often "escape" into adjacent rainforest areas, casting a pall over much of Brazil and in some years affecting transportation and air quality.

The last last two weeks have been especially intense here in Rio Branco.

Rio Branco Weather - 19 Aug 2010

The air has been thick with smoke and the Rio Acre has been at near-record lows...

The most serious problem is that low river levels, especially on the Madeira River in neighboring Rondonia, have been cutting ferry service and the normal flows of transportation into Acre. This means that we could be facing serious shortages of fresh foodstuffs and fuel. Additionally, the wells that serve most of the residential areas are critically low.

The good news is that the 5-day forecast includes a return of scattered showers. The cumulative amount of precipitation is not great but it could signal the end of the most severe phase of the drought. Let's hope so.

5-Day Forecast

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