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Human role in Indonesian polluting forest fires -- Guido van der Werf in Nature Geoscience
Date:5/14/2009

peatlands were drained and deforestation took place on a grand scale. These changes in land use and population density made Kalimantan far more fire prone. Although the enormous influence of this man-made change was already suspected, this is the first time that these claims have been substantiated by reliable data.

Climate change

In addition to the major human influences, the researchers also analysed the influence of two meteorological phenomena. The influence of El Nio on the amount of rainfall was already known, but the Indian Ocean Dipole, that exerts a major influence on the water surface temperature, appeared to be an equally important factor.

Although severe drought provides the conditions conducive for forest fires, it is often humans who are actually responsible. Many of the fires are deliberately started to free up land for agriculture. The sustained burning of biomass not only releases the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane but also large quantities of carbon monoxide and particulate matter. Consequently, during major fire years the air quality in Indonesia is many times worse than that of the most polluted cities of the world. Moreover, the polluted air also affects people living in neighbouring areas.


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Contact: Guido van der Werf
guido.van.der.werf@falw.vu.nl
31-020-598-5687
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Source:Eurekalert

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