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Weekly Weather Event -Week of Aug. 19

August 23, 2019

For the past three weeks, wildfires have been raging in the Amazon rainforest. While wildfires are common during the Amazon’s dry season, and fire activity throughout the entire basin has been lower than normal, there have been a record 72,843 fires reported in Brazil as of August 21st. The state of Amazonas has declared a national emergency due to the destruction taking place.

Though fires can happen naturally during the dry season, humans are the primary cause of wildfires in the Amazon rainforest. Farmers and ranchers set fires as part of slash-and-burn tactics to clear land, though doing so during the dry season is illegal due to the wildfire risk. In addition, illegal logging operations have been known to set fires in order to drive out indigenous populations.

Aside from the destruction brought by the fires, wildfires significantly impact air quality. Smoke is considered particulate matter, a category of airborne particles that also include things such as dust, soot, and dirt. This type of air pollution can be particularly dangerous for people with respiratory diseases, as fine particles can irritate the lungs and contribute to worsening the effects of asthma and bronchitis.