Indonesia Forest Fire – 2015 – Releases 600 MTs of Greenhouse Gases

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Unlike other forest fires, Indonesian forest fires are known to smoulder for months together.  This is attributed to the deposits of peat.  (A soil-like mixture of partly decayed plant material formed in wetlands—lining the coasts of Borneo and Sumatra).  The farmers engage in “slash and burn agriculture technique”.  This results in the surface fire escaping underground into an endless source of fuel.

Another noted reason is brewing strong El Niños currents that tend to reduce the amount of rainfall.  The continuous fires with no rains to douse them release record levels of air pollution and greenhouse gases.

Robert Field, a Columbia University scientist based at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies is quoted to have said : “We are on a similar trajectory to other bad years. Conditions in Singapore and southeastern Sumatra are tracking close to 1997, with some stations having visibility less than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) on average for a week. In Kalimantan, there have been reports of visibility less than 50 meters (165 feet).”  “Aerosol optical depth data (collected by MODIS) show particle levels similar to the peak in 2006, the last major burning event.  This time, however, the high levels are occurring several weeks earlier.  “If the forecasts for a longer dry season hold,” said Field, “this suggests 2015 will rank among the most severe events on record.”

Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED) is a project that gives data on global and regional fire emissions.  The database ranges from reports collected from 1997 to current date.  Irvine, van der Werf  developed a technique to estimate the amount of trace gases and airborne particles that fire emits.  This project was possible with the help of scientists at NASA in collaboration with the University of California.  The 2015 GFED analysis shows Indonesia fires have released greenhouse gases equivalent to about 600 million tons through September 22, a number that rivals carbon dioxide a year of carbon emissions from Germany.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory

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