UCI News

UCI, NASA experts predict quiet year for Amazon fires

Based on a variety of satellite data, UC Irvine and NASA researchers expect Amazon forests this year to see a below-average wildfire season.

July 23, 2014

Based on a variety of satellite data, UC Irvine and NASA researchers expect Amazon forests this year to experience a below-average wildfire season – which, in this part of South America, typically begins in May, peaks in September and ends in January. “2014 looks to be a quiet year for fires in the Amazon region, as sea surface temperatures remained neutral in the Pacific and cool in the Atlantic through April, late in the wet season,” said Doug Morton of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The forecast is derived from a model of fire season severity created by UCI Earth system scientists Yang Chen and Jim Randerson. The model, published in 2011 in Science, considers historical fire data from NASA’s Terra satellite and sea surface temperature data from National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration buoys. “This season may be the calm before the storm,” Randerson said. “Although the conditions were more favorable for higher levels of rainfall and soil moisture build-up over the last six to eight months, conditions are changing. With the probability of El Niño building this fall, we have to be prepared for greater fire risk and damages in 2015.”