The Amazon fires have finally started to garner the attention of the world. The wildfires and deforestation, mostly in Brazil, are an ecological, political, and societal disaster.
The rainforest ecosystem provides oxygen, takes in carbon dioxide, supplies water vapor for the global weather-climate system, and hosts untapped medicinal benefits.
The loss of trees and the sun-blotting smoke are obvious consequences of these massive fires. However, there is another problem with these wildfires.
They are emitting a lot of carbon monoxide. Here's why that is a problem.
I suspect that most people have some familiarity with carbon monoxide because it can be harmful to humans.
If exposed to it for even short period of time, carbon monoxide can quickly replace oxygen in the blood, which can cause serious or even fatal outcomes according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The gas is odorless, colorless, and tasteless so it is particularly dangerous.
According to a NASA press release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory this week, the carbon monoxide signature of the Amazonian fires are clearly detectable by specialized Earth-monitoring satellites.
The image above was captured by an instrument called the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) aboard the Aqua satellite.
In the animation, it is clear that the plume of carbon monoxide starts in the region of burning fires and then drifts southeastward into Brazil and other parts of the continent.