Exclusive: Brazil Amazon fires likely worst in 10 years, August data incomplete, government researcher says

BRASILIA- The official August data on the number of fires in Brazil’s Amazon needs to be corrected and will likely show an increase over last year, meaning that blazes surged to a decade high, a scientist responsible for the figures told Reuters on Wednesday. Brazilian media has reported that fires in Brazil’s section of the Amazon rainforest fell by 5% in August,…

By Jake Spring

BRASILIA (Reuters) – The official August data on the number of fires in Brazil’s Amazon needs to be corrected and will likely show an increase over last year, meaning that blazes surged to a decade high, a scientist responsible for the figures told Reuters on Wednesday.

Brazilian media has reported that fires in Brazil’s section of the Amazon rainforest fell by 5% in August, citing data currently on the website of government space research agency Inpe that has not been corrected.

Alberto Setzer, a senior scientist at Inpe who is involved in producing the official fire data, said that the reporting of finalized data had been delayed by an error with a NASA satellite.

But once that issue is corrected, it will likely show that fires increased by between 1% and 2% in August 2020 compared to the same month a year ago, Setzer said. That would mean it is the worst spate of fires for the month since August 2010.

“It’s going to be up. The number of fires, fire pixels, will increase. Maybe up to 1 or 2%, I would guess,” Setzer said, referring to spots of heat registered on satellite images.

Inpe’s press office directed a request for comment to Setzer, who gave more details on his calculations and cautioned that a shift of 1 to 2% is within the margin of error.

The science and technology ministry, which oversees the space research agency, did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The press office for President Jair Bolsonaro declined to comment, directing questions to the office of Vice President Hamilton Mourao, who has been placed in charge of Amazon affairs. Mourao’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the environment ministry declined to comment.

A surge in fires in August 2019 to a nine-year high provoked outcry from global leaders and the public that Brazil was not doing enough to protect the world’s largest rainforest, with Bolsonaro trading barbs with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Environmental advocates and scientists say that Bolsonaro is to blame for weakening environmental protections and calling for the development of the Amazon, emboldening illegal loggers and land speculators to clear the forest.

The Amazon absorbs vast amounts of carbon dioxide and scientists say its protection is vital to curbing climate change.

Inpe published a note on its website on Aug. 19 that said there had been a problem with NASA’s Aqua satellite that generates the fire data and as a consequence the data had been incomplete since Aug. 16.

NASA has similarly published notices on its website warning of issues with the satellite.

Setzer said Inpe has been looking for alternative data sources in order to correct the problem, estimating that it may take one to two weeks for the final data to be published.

Once correcting for the data that is almost entirely missing for the Amazon for Aug. 16, along with smaller differences generated by missing data for the northern Amazon since then, the final number should show a slight rise, he said.

(Reporting by Jake Spring, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

ANA NEWS WIRE Disclaimer:
The African News Agency (ANA) is a news wire service and therefore subscribes to the highest standards of journalism as it relates to accuracy, fairness and impartiality.
ANA strives to provide accurate, well sourced and reliable information across Text, Images and Video. Where errors do appear, ANA will seek to correct these timeously and transparently.
The ANA platform also contains news and information from third party sources. ANA has sought to procure reliable content from trusted news sources but cannot be held responsible for the accuracy and opinions provided by such sources on the ANA platform or linked sites.
The content provided for on the ANA News Wire platform, both through the ANA news operation and via its third party sources, are for the sole use of authorised subscribers and partners. Unauthorised access to and usage of ANA content will be subject to legal steps. ANA reserves its rights in this regard.
ANA makes every effort to ensure that the website is up and running smoothly at all times, however ANA does not take responsibility for, and will not be held liable for times when the website is temporarily unavailable due to technical issues that are beyond our control.