World The Amazon is burning and smoke from the fires can be seen from space
Forest fires in the Amazon are generating smoke that can be seen from space and may have caused a daytime blackout more than 1,700 miles away in the country’s largest city.
In the middle of the day on Monday, the sky above São Paulo was blanketed by smoke from the wildfires raging in the Amazon region, according to local media reports. The smoke resulting from some of these wildfires was also captured in satellite images released by NASA last week.
„The smoke did not come from fires from the state of São Paulo, but from very dense and wide fires that have been going on for several days in Rondônia and Bolivia. The cold front changed the direction of the winds and transported this smoke to São Paulo,” Josélia Pegorim, Climatempo meteorologist, told Globo.
Reuters reported the Amazon rainforest has experienced a record number of fires this year, citing new data released by the country’s space agency The National Institute for Space Research (INPE). The agency said its satellite data detected more than 72,000 fires since January, an 83% increase over the same period of 2018.
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, who recently fired the space agency’s director, brushed off the news, attributing it to the time of year when farmers use fire to clear the land.
The firing came after Bolsonaro criticized INPE deforestation data which showed a significant increase in illegal logging, claiming officials had manipulated figures to make his administration look bad. The INPE found 370 square miles of Amazon forest were lost in June — an 88% increase from the same month last year.
Since taking office in January, the administration of Bolsonaro has consistently clashed with environmentalists and others over possibly opening up the Amazon rainforest to development and agribusiness.
Ricardo Mello, head of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Amazon Program, told the BBC the fires were „a consequence of the increase in deforestation seen in recent figures.”
Many on Twitter using the #PrayforAmazonia criticized Bolsonaro’s environmental policies and inaction on the fires.
Amazonas, the largest state in Brazil, has already declared a state of emergency over the fires, EuroNews reported.
Though the Amazon rainforest has been fire-resistant for much of its history because of its natural moisture and humidity, drought and human activities are causing wildfires, according to NASA.
„The intensity and frequency of droughts in turn, have been linked with increases in regional deforestation and anthropogenic climate change,” the release from NASA said.
Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg
A British child has died in a holiday town on the Costa del Sol in Spain, the Foreign Office has confirmed.
According to reports, the child was a 13-year-old boy who fell from an apartment block.
Paramedics were reportedly called to the scene but were unable to save him on Tuesday afternoon.
“We are offering support to the family of a British child who has died in Fuengirola,” said a Foreign Office spokesman.
“Our thoughts are with them at this very difficult time and Foreign Office staff are in contact with the Spanish police.”
Various media outlets reported that the child was on holiday with his family and that his mother was with him when he fell from a sixth-floor balcony on to an internal patio at about 1.30pm local time.
The local authorities have reportedly opened an investigation into the incident.
The town of Fuengirola is a popular holiday destination for British tourists.
Living in an area with high air pollution increases the chance of suffering from a major mental illness or depression, scientists have discovered.
In the biggest study ever looking into a link between emissions and neuropsychiatric disorders, researchers compared 151 million health insurance records with pollution statistics across the US.
The team from the University of Chicago then verified their findings using data from health registers covering 1.4 million people in Denmark.
Americans living in the most highly polluted areas were at 27 percent increased of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder while incidents of major depression rose by six per cent.
Likewise Danes who were exposed to high emissions before the age of 10 were 50 per cent more likely to suffer major depression in adulthood, and at more than double the risk of schizophrenia and personality disorders, compared to people who grew up in the freshest air.
British scientists said the results suggested that improving air quality might offer a ‘rare’ primary healthcare opportunity to prevent mental illness.
Study author Dr Atik Khan, a computational biologist, said: “Our studies in the United States and Denmark show that living in polluted areas, especially early in life, is predictive of mental disorders.
“These neurological and psychiatric diseases – so costly in both financial and social terms – appear linked to the physical environment, particularly air quality.”
In recent years, scientists have attempted to uncover the genetic variations which make some people more susceptible to mental health problems.
But they have increasingly found that DNA seems to account for just 10 per cent of the risk for most people, leading experts to think that a complex interplay of genetics, neurochemicals and social factors is to blame.
Recent studies on rodents have shown that small particulates, such as those emitted by diesel engines, can travel to the brain through the nose and lungs, and animals exposed to pollution have shown signs of cognitive impairment and depression-like symptoms.
“We hypothesised that pollutants might affect our brains through neuroinflammatory pathways that have also been shown to cause depression-like signs in animal studies,” said Dr Andrey Rzhetsky, who led the new study.
Air pollution has already been implicated in lung disease, diabetes and heart attacks and in 2016 researchers at Lancaster University found that magnetic particles produced by car engines and brakes in the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
British scientists said that people who live in more polluted areas tended to be less healthy as a result of social class which could account for some of the increased risk, but said cutting emissions could help to lower the rate of mental illness in the UK.
Dr Ioannis Bakolis, Lecturer in Biostatistics and Epidemiology, at King’s College London: “These findings add to the current evidence from previous studies of a possible link between air pollution and psychiatric disorders.
“Improving air quality is a tractable, though complex, issue and therefore measures to reduce air pollution may represent a potentially impactful and rare primary health measure for the prevention of psychiatric disorders, although we still need to learn much more about if and how this would work.”