The footage is very impressive. The megalopolis of Sao Paulo, Brazil, was plunged into darkness for about an hour Monday afternoon after strong winds caused by smoke from the forest fires in the Amazonas and Rondonia states. The two states are more than 1,600 miles apart.
Already more than 1000 hectares gone up in smoke
The fires that started in July are devastating. Some 1000 hectares of forest have already been destroyed in a nature reserve in the state of Rondonia, located on the border with Bolivia. Two weeks ago, Amazonas state in the northwest of the country even declared a state of emergency due to the increase in the number of fires in the region, Euronews reports. According to satellite images, other fires have also occurred in the Mato Grosso state.
Fires that caused thick smoke in Sao Paulo
On August 13th, NASA researcher Santiago Gasso showed that all the fires created a layer of smoke covering an area of about 460,000 square miles. According to meteorologists, these thick fumes are responsible for the darkness observed during the day in Sao Paulo.
‘The smoke did not come from the fires in Sao Paulo state, but from very dense and extensive forest fires that have been going on for several days in Rondonia state and in Bolivia,’ said Joselia Pegorim, a Climatempo meteorologist, for the Brazilian media O Globo. ‘In Sao Paulo, there was a combination of excess humidity and the arrival of these fumes which gave the sky this appearance,’ she added.
Fires up 83% in the Amazon
While the Amazonian forest has resisted fires well throughout its history, thanks in particular to its humidity, things are changing. Forest fires in Brazil have increased by 83% since the beginning of the year, compared to the previous year. Between January and August, no fewer than 72,843 fires were reported in the country, compared to 39,759 for the whole of 2018, reports the INPE (National Institute for Space Research). What is the cause of this increase? Mainly slash-and-burn clearing used to transform forest land into crop and livestock areas, or the cleaning of areas already cleared of trees. This practice, which is normally prohibited at this time of year, is still widely used.
Internet users are mobilising and denouncing Bolsonaro's policy
Many internet users on social networks are blaming Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for this, who is openly climate sceptical. He is largely responsible for the inaction in the face of these forest fires, and does not devote enough resources to controlling deforestation practices. According to the INPE, deforestation in July was almost four times higher than in the same month in 2018. A real scourge caused by Bolsonaro's politics.
For a few days now, hashtag #PrayForAmazonia has been trending on Twitter and is spreading on social networks. Internet users are denouncing, among other things, the ‘mainstream media’ for not diffusing information sufficiently. A hashtag which has turned viral, and which is also focused on Jair Bolsonaro's devastating policies.