NASA Scientists Identify Link Between Fires and the Water Cycle

Researchers have identified a unique link between fire and drought in Africa. Previous studies have shown the role drought plays in bolstering the risk of wildfire, but the latest research does the opposite.

NASA scientists found a link between wildfire and controlled burning in northern sub-Saharan Africa and the region's water cycle.

"We wanted to look at the general impacts of burning on the whole spectrum of the water cycle," Charles Ichoku, a senior scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a news release.

Researchers examined satellite data collected by NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer and the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission between 2001 and 2014. Through data analysis, they were able to tease out a relationship between fire activity and hydrological indicators, including soil moisture, precipitation, evapotranspiration and vegetation greenness -- all factors that help trigger rain.

"There is a tendency for the net influence of fire to suppress precipitation in northern sub-Saharan Africa," Ichoku concluded.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


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