After intense fires in the Amazon captured global attention in 2019, fires again raged throughout the region in 2020. According to an analysis of satellite data from NASA’s Amazon dashboard, the 2020 fire season was actually more severe by some key measures.

“Fire activity was up significantly in 2020. All types of fires contributed to the increase, including deforestation fires and understory fires, the most environmentally destructive types,” said Douglas Morton, chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “In the southern Brazilian Amazon, deforestation fire activity increased by 23 percent from 2019 to 2020, and active fire detections from understory fires were 60 percent higher than in 2019.”

Some organizations working in the region hope that infusions of new satellite data and analyses could change the dynamic. For instance, SERVIR-Amazonia, a USAID/NASA initiative, is currently working with the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to develop a data portal for users in Pará and hosted by the state’s Secretariat of Environment and Sustainability. “Our goal is to customize the NASA Amazon dashboard to make the data as useful as possible for local decision makers who are trying to combat fires and deforestation,” said Jose Leandro R. Fernandes, an engagement lead with SERVIR-Amazonia.


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