A busy Atlantic hurricane season could mean more fires in the Amazon

While warm ocean water drives hurricanes to the U.S. East Coast, the Amazon is likely to feel the heat.

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A burnt area of forest in the State of Para, Brazil, in the Amazon basin, on August 27, 2019. The same ocean warming that's expected to drive a busy Atlantic hurricane season is also seen making the Amazon drier, leading to more fires.

The 2020 fire season in the Amazon rain forest could be far worse than in 2019, researchers say, partly because of the same climate conditions that are fueling an active hurricane season to the north.

Last August, a spate of enormous, human-set fires in the Amazon sent smoke billowing over the Brazilian city of São Paulo, turning day into night and prompting an international outcry. But while those fires were unusual and alarming, the situation could have been far worse if the Amazon had been in a drought.

Unfortunately, drier-than-average conditions are exactly what’s being forecastfor the southern Amazon this year, thanks in part to an unusual buildup of heat in the tropical North Atlantic, thousands of miles away.

That oceanic heat has also caused the Atlantic hurricane season to get off to a record fast start, a harbinger of what is predicted to be an unusually busy season. Some research suggests a causal link between hurricanes themselves and bad Amazonian fire years — although that is a matter of greater debate.

“What I think is happening is the ocean...

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