aWhere Case Study: Fires in the Amazon

aWhere Case Study: Fires in the Amazon

Fires are raging in Bolivia and Paraguay. With aWhere’s observed data and technical interventions, these fires could have been managed far better to reduce the loss of Amazonian forests. Read our latest case study in the Economic Resilience to Climate Change series which takes an in-depth look at how recent weather patterns have contributed to the fires in Bolivia and Paraguay.

Weather Insights:

Bolivia

Bolivia and Paraguay are experiencing multiple intense fires. aWhere’s data warned that in early June, the unexpectedly dry conditions in eastern and southern Bolivia were certainly foretelling of prime suitability for intense fires. This report highlights that rainfall variability negatively impacts vegetative health and extended dry periods further amplify the impact as weakened and dead vegetation contribute to a significant fuel load.

Weekly rainfall charts below for a few locations in eastern Bolivia show the rainfall (blue bars) compared to the expected (dark blue line) showed prolonged dry periods that led to drought conditions and a fire hazard for Bolivia that was partially masked by spikes in rainfall late in 2018 when one looks at annual averages. aWhere’s gridded weather enables authorities to see where Amazonian vegetation would pose a hire fire risk and where no-burn zones should have been enforced.

In San Juán Bautista, there was an extended dry period  followed by a significant rainfall event in early July (blue circle). These heavy rains were likely damaging, causing flooding.

Weather Insights:

Paraguay

For Paraguay, the weather pattern from the past 10 months has been highly variable, especially precipitation. Periods of intense rainfall (flooding and runoff) mixed with periods, sometimes 6-8 weeks, of drought conditions. Trees are stressed by this variability that predispose them to pests, disease and fires due to lightning or burning of logging piles or campfires. Drought punctuated by intense rain events leads to runoff and erosion and is not as effective in averting fire risks.

For the locations below, about 25mm of rain per week (or more) was expected since late May; but this was replaced by drought followed by spikes in rainfall. Drought coupled with higher temperatures created an ideal environment for fires with dry conditions in January and February setting the stage for large-scale forest fires.

Implications

The drier than normal conditions across Bolivia and Paraguay have created the ideal conditions for the current situation of large-scale fires. This image from MODIS (15-22 August 2019) shows the current fires in dry regions. aWhere analytics in June 2019 indicated these areas at risk, this information could have been used to send out alerts to ban fires and where firebreaks could have been established to reduce the spread of wildfires.

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