Warm North Atlantic Ocean temperatures could lead to increase in devastating hurricanes and forest fires: NASA

In 2005 and 2010, warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures spawned a series of severe hurricanes and triggered record droughts across the southern Amazon that led to widespread forest fires


                            Warm North Atlantic Ocean temperatures could lead to increase in devastating hurricanes and forest fires: NASA
(Getty Images)

The year 2020 is full of disasters and we may have more in store. According to NASA, the present conditions are ideal for hurricanes and Amazon forest fires to cause largescale destruction. And it is predicted to be at par with the 2005 hurricane season — the most active event recorded in history. NASA came up with these predictions after measuring the surface water temperatures of the North Atlantic Ocean.

The oceans are known to influence the earth's climate and weather. When the sea temperature rises, the wind carries away all the moisture northwards, leaving the southern Amazon susceptible to hurricanes and droughts. And droughts, in turn, can make the landscape dry and flammable. And if humans set a part of the rainforest on fires, it could spin out of control and burn up large swaths of land.

It "is consistent with what we saw in 2005 and 2010 when warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures spawned a series of severe hurricanes and triggered record droughts across the southern Amazon that culminated in widespread Amazon forest fires," Doug Morton, chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement.

The US may feel the pinch of the hurricane season which took off in June and is likely to last until November 30 (Getty Images)

The US may feel the pinch of the hurricane season which took off in June and is likely to last until November 30. We already have witnessed five storms so far all of which have weakened. The large Saharan dust plume offered some respite, delaying it. But meteorologists warn that Americans should prepare for the harsher ones hitting August — the peak season. The atmospheric conditions or sea surface temperatures will influence rainfall patterns in 2020 and potentially impact hurricanes and fires, NASA said.

In fact, the burnings in Brazil's Amazon rainforests set a new record: it rose by 20% to a 13-year high in June. According to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), 2,248 fires struck the Amazon rainforest in June this year, up from 1,880 in June 2019. Other experts have predicted that the crisis will worsen in the next three months. These rainforests are home to one in 10 known species on earth, 40,000 plant species, 3,000 freshwater fish species and more than 370 types of reptiles, according to the World Wide Fund.

Shown are 10 Amazon regions from Brazil, Bolivia and Peru and their fire severity risks going into the 2020 fire season. Green indicates below-average predictions of fire activity and orange and red indicate above-average activity (NASA)

NASA's Morton is one of the creators of the Amazon fires forecasting platform. In addition to measuring sea surface temperatures, they also analyzed the record of fire data. "Our seasonal fire forecast provides an early indication of fire risk to guide preparations across the region," Morton said, noting that the forecast is most accurate three months before the peak of burning in the southern Amazon in September. "Now, satellite-based estimates of active fires and rainfall will be the best guide to how the 2020 fire season unfolds."

The Brazilian states such as Pará, Mato Grosso and Rondônia are at higher risk this season, he added. Torching of the forests has been on the rise amid the Covid-19 pandemic and NASA worries that it could delay rescue measures.“You have a perfect storm: drought, the recent increase in deforestation and new difficulties for firefighting,” he said. "2020 is set up to be a dangerous year for fires in the Amazon."

 "Changes in human fire use, specifically deforestation, add more year-to-year variability in Amazon fires. In addition, climate change is likely to make the entire region drier and more flammable – conditions that would allow fires for deforestation or agricultural use to spread into standing Amazon forests," Yang Chen, an earth scientist at the University of California, Irvine, and co-creator of the Amazon fire season forecast, said.

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