Skip to main content

smoke rises from an illegally lit fire in Amazon rainforest reserve, south of Novo Progresso in Para state, Brazil, Aug. 15, 2020.

CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

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 rain forest 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.

Story continues below advertisement

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 rain forest, 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.

Story continues below advertisement

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.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies