El Niño Could Drive Intense Season for Amazon Fires

El Nio conditions in 2015 and early 2016 altered rainfall patterns around the world. In the Amazon, El Nio reduced rainfall during the wet season, leaving the region drier at the start of the 2016 dry season than any year since 2002, according to NASA satellite data.

“Severe drought conditions at the start of the dry season set the stage for extreme fire risk in 2016 across the southern Amazon,” Morton said.

The team also uses data on terrestrial water storage from the joint NASA/German Aerospace Center (DLR) Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission to follow changes in groundwater during the dry season. GRACE measurements serve as a proxy for the dryness of soils and forests.

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