While a Columbia University-led study published in July of this year showed that sea surface temperatures in the Northern Atlantic could be used to forecast fire severity across the a small section of the western Amazon in Peru and Brazil, the new study considers a much broader swath of South America and takes into account how ocean temperatures in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans affect the continent's fires.
The University of California, Irvine team also developed and validated an innovative computer model that they used to predict 2010 fire activity and could be used to forecast fire season severity in the future. The team's model successfully predicted that prolonged drought and severe fires would occur during the 2010 fire season, which is exactly what happened.
"Fire activity can vary dramatically. Satellites detected about twice as many fires during 2010 as they did in 2009," said Doug Morton, a scientist based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. who coauthored the new study. The researchers have to wait a few more months before they can determine whether the model's predictions for the 2011 fire season were also accurate.
"For the 2010 season, the model successfully captured not only the severity of wildfire activity, but it also got much of the east-west spatial distribution right," said Randerson. By looking back at a full decade of data, the scientists noticed a distinctive pattern: fires in the southern and southwestern part of the Amazon were most strongly influenc
|Contact: Patrick Lynch|
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center