Science 3 min read

Amazon Fires May Cause Andean Glaciers To Melt Faster

Galyna Andrushko /

Galyna Andrushko /

new study suggests that the tropical glaciers in the Andes may be melting faster because of the Amazon fires.

Since the beginning of the year, over 121,000 fires have broken out in the Amazon rainforest.

Brazil‘s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) first reported the increasing rate in June. Two months later, the report received international attention after NASA corroborated the findings.

Although wildfires are not uncommon in the current age, experts have blamed the Amazon fires on deforestation. Residents are deliberately starting these blazes to deforest lands for cattle ranching.

Unfortunately, several indigenous tribes have already lost their homes to the fire, and millions of animals are threatened. However, a recent paper in Scientific reports suggests that one other effect of the fire: glacier melting.

You’ll find the Andean glaciers along the border between Chile and Argentina, as well as the Tropical Andes. It constitutes over 95 percent of the world’s tropical glaciers, and it’s 1,250 miles away from the Amazon fires.

With the significant distance, you have to be wondering how the rainforest inferno is melting the glaciers, right?.

Researcher Newton de Magalhães Neto and colleagues explained it in their paper.

How Amazon Fires May Enhance Andean Glacier Melting

The researchers analyzed the effect of biomass burning in the Amazon Basin on the Bolivian Zongo Glacier.

For the study, the team used collected and analyzed data on fire events between 2000 and 2016. They also considered the movement of smoke plumes, precipitation, and glacier melting.

The findings revealed that the wind could transport aerosols like black carbon from biomass burning to glacier melting. When this occurs, the aerosol becomes deposited in the snow and turns it black.

This results in a reduced snow albedo. That means the darkened particles prevents the snow from reflecting light, which in turn increases the potential for glacier melting.

According to the model, black carbon or dust alone could increase annual glacier melting by 3 to 4 percent. Meanwhile, if both dust and black carbon are present, the number jumps to 6 percent.

In high concentrations, dust alone can increase annual melting by 11 to 13 percent. But in the presence of black coal, the number also rises to 12 to 14 percent.

There’s little doubt that the Amazon fire can increase the Andean glacier melting. However, the study suggests that the rate of the melting depends on the dust content in the snow.

Read More: Greenland’s Ice Sheet to Disappear in the Next 1000 Years

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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