Amazon Fires: 3 Percent Burned in Past 12 Years, NASA Says

June 8, 2013 Updated: July 18, 2015

Fires have burned three percent of the Amazon rainforest in the past 12 years, according to NASA.

Researchers at the space agency said that the “severity of the 2013 fire season will be considerably higher than in 2011 and 2012 for many Amazon forests in the Southern Hemisphere,” according to a press release. Scientists said the prediction is based on a model that produced a forecast in 2012.

The release pointed out that in the southern Amazon rainforest below forest treetops there have been a number of “understory fires,” which have been hidden from NASA satellites.

“Amazon forests are quite vulnerable to fire, given the frequency of ignitions for deforestation and land management at the forest frontier, but we’ve never known the regional extent or frequency of these understory fires,” Doug Morton with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., told Science Daily. The study was published in the April 22 in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

Between 1999 and 2010, the understory fires burned some 33,000 square miles, or around 2.8 percent of the forest.

There is no indication between a correlation between deforestation and the understory fires.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that in 2003 and 2004–the peak years for forest-clearing–the adjacent forests have relatively low fire levels.