In context: Often called the "planet's lungs," the Amazon rainforest has been subject to a series of devastating fires that the National Institute for Space Research says amounts to more than 75,000 incidents this year alone. Many are calling these fires a deliberate act on the part of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who's been accused of clearing the tropical land for agricultural use while he blames non-government groups, looking to draw criticism away from his government. Facing global mounting pressure, President Bolsonaro on Friday deployed troops and warplanes to handle the emergency, which also came under discussion at the ongoing 45th G7 Summit in France.
Amidst the blazing fires in the world's largest tropical forest, NASA used its Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument aboard the Aqua satellite to show the movement and levels of carbon monoxide high in the atmosphere.
Mapped over a two-week period (August 8-22) from an altitude of 18,000 ft (5,500 meters), the time series generated from the received data shows the expanding plume in the northwest Amazon region drifting towards more concentrated plumes in the southeastern part of Brazil.
"Each "day" in the series is made by averaging three days' worth of measurements, a technique used to eliminate data gaps. Green indicates concentrations of carbon monoxide at approximately 100 parts per billion by volume (ppbv); yellow, at about 120 ppbv; and dark red, at about 160 ppbv. Local values can be significantly higher," says NASA.
The parts per billion by volume (ppbv) unit used to describe concentrations of a contaminant is referred to as the number of units of mass of a contaminant (carbon monoxide in this case) per 1000 million units of total mass (of air in this case).
NASA further observes that a pollutant like carbon monoxide, which contributes to climate change and air pollution, can travel large distances and remain in the atmosphere for about a month. Although the gas mapped in the current images is at a higher altitude, strong winds can bring it downward, significantly affecting the quality of air we breathe.
Al Jazeera notes that as of Sunday, President Jair Bolsonaor authorized military operations in seven states to fight these fires as leaders of the G7 Summit nations expressed their grave concern over the matter, with French President Emmanuel Macron hinting towards finalizing a deal to provide "technical and financial help" by the seven nations.
Main Image Credit: Greenpeace, Earth Time series Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech