Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Fires are rising in South America and the US.

By triji Jun 22, 2024
News

Fire outbreaks in South America’s Pantanal surged by 1,700% over the previous year.

In the end, the Amazonian respite was fleeting. West-central Brazil has seen thousands of fires start since the year’s beginning. And this is just as the dry season is starting.

More than 2,500 fire outbreaks have been reported since the year’s beginning in the Pantanal, which is still in South America and is the world’s largest wetland and a haven for jaguars and caimans. This is a 1,700% rise from the previous year. The area devastated exceeds 3,500 km², which is equivalent to the Tarn-et-Garonne department.

This year was not very rainy; the area has been experiencing a persistent drought since 2019. In 2020, fire destroyed a fourth of the region, killing 17 million vertebrates. The crisis is mostly caused by global warming, which has been made worse this year by the El Niño phenomenon, which raises temperatures and exacerbates drought.

United States West Coast fires

There are flames consuming the western United States as well. The community of Ruidoso is trapped between two fires and is on fire 300 kilometers from the Mexican border. 800 firefighters are on the scene, 1,500 structures have been damaged, 7,000 people have been evacuated, and a state of emergency has been declared.

This June 21, there are about twenty fires in total, with about ten of them occurring in California, where the main fire season has already begun. The cause of the violent winds and drought was also one individual who lost their life.

After the world’s warmest January ever, South America is still getting used to the horrific wildfires that have ravaged the continent while it experiences unheard-of high temperatures.

The most notable affected nation is Chile, when a fire that quickly turned into a national disaster claimed the lives of at least 131 people in the coastal Valparaíso area. Last year, the nation’s summer wildfires claimed the lives of at least 23 individuals.

But it’s hardly the only nation dealing with uncontrollably raging flames. More than 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres) of land have been burned by a fire in the Los Alerces national park in Argentina, while in January, fires in Colombia destroyed more than 17,000 hectares (42,000 acres).

The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service reports that South America had a surge in wildfire activity in 2023. In the first two months of this year, wildfire carbon emissions in Chile and some regions of Argentina were at their highest level in 20 years.

Most wildfires in South America are caused by human activities. Conaf, Chile’s fire authority, has declared that human error is to blame for 99.7% of fires. In the meantime, Argentina’s Los Alerces fires have been attributed to campers by local officials.

In recent times, there has been a growing issue with fires. Scientists attribute the conditions that allow flames to grow uncontrollably to a combination of the climate crisis and El Niño, a weather pattern that raises sea temperatures in the Pacific, influencing weather worldwide.

According to climate scientist Raúl Cordero of the Universities of Groningen and Santiago, Chile, both were significantly involved in the latest fires. “The combination of El Niño and heatwaves caused by climate change increased the risk of local fires and significantly influenced the intense fire activity.”

A “big part of the equation,” according to Francisco de la Barrera, an associate professor at the University of Concepción, is the climate problem, which is producing a long-term drought in the area and raising the possibility of quickly spreading fires. He declares, “I believe we are in a new era of megafires that we have not seen before.”

Climate change, according to Chile’s environment minister Maisa Rojas, is making these natural disasters “more frequent and stronger.” She asserts, “Climate change is not a problem for the future.” It is an issue for the present. We are currently feeling the consequences of this occurrence.

There are other local factors at work as well. There are extensive, densely populated woods made up of non-native trees developed for the lumber trade in the region of Chile that was devastated by fire this week. This, according to De la Barrera, caused the fire to spread swiftly.

Although governments now provide more funds for responding to and preventing fires, some contend that more needs to be done to stop fires from starting in the first place.

To stop wildfires, South American nations have created environmental laws and implemented new regulations. Critics counter that there have been instances of sporadic implementation. For example, Chile increased its annual firefighting budget from £80 million to £40 million following the devastating fires of the previous year.

Nevertheless, other experts argue that the events of the last few weeks demonstrate that funding is insufficient. According to Cordero, “resources alone do not determine outcomes.” He claims that some residents disregarded an evacuation order in spite of an early warning system because they were worried about their homes’ protection. He claims that some individuals were more afraid of robbers than of fires.

According to Greenpeace Chile’s deputy director, Estefanía González, there has been no progress on a proposed rule that would have limited changes to land use in areas impacted by fires. According to her, the most dangerous places are those where people live alongside flammable plant species; these areas are “not considered in Chile’s land-use planning policies.”

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