Raging wildfires around the world
The severity of the wildfires in the Amazon has prompted a global outcry. But Brazil isn't the only country struggling to contain out-of-control blazes. In fact, even more fires are currently burning in Central Africa.
The Congo Basin
According to Weather Source, over 6,900 fires have been recorded in Angola and 3,400 in DR Congo this week; compared to over 2,000 in Brazil. But experts say it's difficult to compare. "Fire in Africa... is part of a cycle, people in the dry season set fire to bush rather than to dense, moist rainforest," said Greenpeace's Philippe Verbelen.
Almost a million hectares (3860 square miles) of forest and farmland have been destroyed in Bolivia over the past few weeks by largely unchecked wildfires, with scientists and indigenous leaders already branding it the country's biggest disaster for biodiversity. Small farmers often practice the slash-and-burn method — known locally as chaqueo — as a quick and easy way to clear land.
The start of the dry season has sparked Indonesia's worst annual fire season since 2015. A state of emergency has been declared in six provinces, including Sumatra and the Riau Islands. Like Brazil, Indonesia is home to some of our planet's oldest tropical forests, but large areas have been lost to agriculture or other commercial interests.
Gran Canaria, Spain
A wildfire raged through the Spanish holiday island for over a week this month, threatening several parks rich in biodiversity and forcing thousands to evacuate. Spain is often threatened by massive forest fires, especially during the hot, arid summer months. Experts say climate change means these events will likely become more severe and frequent.
Large swathes of land in Siberia have been engulfed by wildfires this season, prompting a state of emergency in four regions. Forest fires are a natural event in Siberia, but unusually warm weather this summer combined with strong winds meant a record 5.5 million hectares of forest was burning by mid-August, creating a cloud of smoke which covered a greater area than the EU!
Greece is on high alert as hot, windy weather fuels dozens of fires across the country. Hundreds of people had to be evacuated from the holiday island of Samos. Fires in Greece are often blamed on people ignoring safety rules during severe weather conditions, such as throwing away lit cigarettes or barbequing outdoors. More than 100 people were killed in a wildfire outside Athens in July 2018.
Australia is no stranger to bushfires. But they are becoming increasingly common even during the winter months thanks to warmer-than-usual temperatures. Tinder-dry conditions have forced some states to bring forward the start of the bushfire danger season to August 1. Between August 22 - 23 this year Australia recorded 768 bushfires — slightly higher than the number of blazes burning in Bolivia.
Arizona, United States
Beginning on June 8, three wildfires in Central Arizona have burned through 14,000 acres of land. Wildfire season is usually quite active in Arizona due to its dry climate. Unless they pose a threat to human life, many fires are contained and managed rather than suppressed. On average, over 2% of the land has burned per decade since 1984 — a figure likely to increase as the climate warms.