Hidden consequence of Amazon fires revealed by NASA satellite

Fires in the Amazon continue to ignite and provoke outrage throughout the world. While images of smoke and undulating flames have taken center stage, recent fires have also unleashed a more stealthy danger: carbon monoxide.

NASA's Aqua Satellite has captured New data showing the movement of carbon monoxide badociated with fires in the Amazon region of Brazil.

The map shows contaminant levels at an altitude of 5,500 meters (18,000 feet) between August 8 and 22, 2019. Green indicates concentrations of carbon monoxide at approximately 100 parts per billion per volume (ppbv); yellow, at approximately 120 ppbv; and red, at approximately 160 ppbv.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that occurs when anything made of carbon, be it vegetation or fossil fuel, is burned with an insufficient supply of air or oxygen. It is most often badociated with gas fires in congested rooms, but it can also occur as result of forest fires.

Carbon monoxide badociated with fires in the Amazon region in Brazil from August 8 to 22, 2019. NASA / JPL-Caltech

If you inhale carbon monoxide, especially in a closed interior space, you can enter the bloodstream and join the red blood cell oxygen carrier known as hemoglobin. When this happens, blood hemoglobin can no longer carry oxygen. Finally, lack of oxygen can cause the body's cells and tissues to fail and die. The gas is less dangerous in the outside air, since very high levels are unlikely to occur, although it is still considered a harmful air pollutant It damages the air quality. The high atmospheric levels are Especially worrying for people with some types of heart disease.

Carbon monoxide can also fan the flames of climate change. Although it is not strictly considered a greenhouse gas, its presence in the atmosphere can affect greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide, so it can indirectly act as a climate change agent.

“A pollutant that can travel long distances, carbon monoxide can persist in the atmosphere for about a month. At the high altitude mapped in these images, the gas has little effect on the air we breathe; however, high winds can take it down, where it can significantly affect air quality, "NASA said in a statement. declaration. "Carbon monoxide plays a role in air pollution and climate change."

The Brazilian Amazon has experienced more than 41,850 fires so far this year, until August 24. The National Space Research Institute (INPE) of Brazil has detected 85 percent more forest fires this year than in the same period in 2018, however, the fires are well within the historical range of the last 20 years. INPE data, badyzed by Mongabay, shows that there were more fires in the Brazilian Amazon (from January to August) in the years 2010, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2002.

However, although this is becoming the new norm, it is no reason to be complacent. The Amazon rainforest is one of the most important biomes on our planet, it plays a key role in maintaining the natural processes on Earth. As these fires are a testament to this, the rainforest in Brazil is facing a growing crisis that will only deepen given the president's lax attitude towards environmental regulations and the close ties of his administration with agribusiness.

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