This image shows fires and smoke plumes near the Xingu River in the Brazilian Amazon. Fire locations are superimposed in red on the true-color image, taken by the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA's Terra satellite
on May 2, 2001. Virgin forest
is dark green, while land cleared for agriculture is lighter green or brown. Fire is the principle
method used to clear new land. Although peak burning season is July through September, there are already 20 or more fires that can be seen burning in this image.
The deforestation of the Amazon River Basin is one of the world's best-known environmental problems. MODIS will help scientists study the
region in several ways. MODIS' thermal detectors can directly detect fires, as shown above. (See "NASA Demonstrates New Technology for Monitoring Fires from Space" for more details.) Specifically, the instrument can measure the intensities of fires, thus enabling scientists to more accurately estimate their rates of combustion and the amounts of emission products--such as smoke, greenhouse gases, and aerosol particles--they release into the atmosphere. Over the lifetime of the Terra and Aqua missions, MODIS will measure the rate and extent of deforestation on a global scale.
Image courtesy Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team
Following a notable increase in fire activity in August 2019 and a gradual rise in deforestation, scientists have been watching for signs of how 2020 might shape up. Several worrisome signs have emerged.