Amazon fires 'quicken Andean glacier melt'

Rodiano Bonacci
Novembre 30, 2019

The research specifically focuses on the Zongo glacier in Bolivia using data collected between 2000 and 2016 on fire events.

And they say the impact will be felt across the continent.

"Amazon deforestation and fires - events that occur mainly in Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil - can not be considered a regional issue".

Dr Neto added: "Biomass burning over southwestern Amazonia can not be considered a regional issue to be faced but instead has social implications at the continental scale, making the use of water by several Andean communities a vulnerability".

The first thing the study, published in Scientific Reports, set out to do was show that smoke plumes from forest fires in the Amazon could actually reach glaciers in the Andes mountains.

The fires had adverse effects in the local region, where clouds of smoke engulfed cities, miles away from the Amazon.

A study has found soot from fires in the jungles of Brazil, Peru and Bolivia has increased melting in the Andes by up to 14 per cent a year.

There they are deposited in snow and have the potential to increase glacier melting as the snow that is darkened by black carbon or dust particles reflects less light (reduced albedo).

That darkened surface then absorbs more of the sun's energy, which amplifies melting.

Whereas the findings have been important, the researchers acknowledged they did no longer advance as a big surprise: the identical route of has been seen in other locations within the sphere.

"Greenland receives large amounts of black carbon from fossil-fuel origin due to North America and European industrialisation", said Dr de Magalhães Neto.

They found that aerosols from biomass burning, such as black carbon, can be transported by wind to tropical Andean glaciers.

What could the impact of this be?

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Because the communities surrounding the Andes depend on cyclical melting and refreezing of the tropical glacier for their water needs, accelerated melting - and therefore faster disappearance of the glacier - puts their long-term water needs in jeopardy.

Amazon is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming, and 60 per cent of it is located in Brazil.

Earlier in August, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has rejected a $22 million aid package offered by G7 countries to help battle fierce forest fires in the Amazon rainforest.

"This raises awareness of an additional factor that may [have an] impact [on] glacier melting in the tropical Andes", he said. Further investigation should also be a priority, according to Dr. Wilson.

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