Broad patches of the Amazon rainforest basin are at extremely high risk for wildfires this year, according to a new report from NASA and the University of California, Irvine.
Initial conditions going into the area's dry season so far suggest this could be the toughest year for wildfires since 2002, according to a fire forecast released last week. This is worse than exceptionally dry years in 2005, 2007 and 2010, according to Yang Chen, a project scientist at the University of California, Irvine, who worked on the research.
Among the areas most at risk are deforested areas, including farms and human settlements.
The southern Amazon region has suffered an unusually large deficit of rainfall over the last three years, worsened by a strong El Nino from 2015 to 2016.
Chen added that these are only the initial conditions going into the season, and that there may be other factors that mitigate, or heighten, the risk.
The Amazon basin is home to the world's largest tropical rainforest, and is considered one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth. Portions of the rainforest had been steadily cleared for logging, farming and mining operations for decades, before governments in some countries — notably Brazil, began taking steps to slow the rate of deforestation.