NASA study finds a relationship between wildfire and drought

Blog Post created by faithberry Employee on Jan 12, 2017

NASA conducted a recent study about drought caused by changes in climate as well as human-caused activities in the Sub-Sahara region of Africa.  According to the study, “A periodic temperature shift in the Atlantic Ocean, known as the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation, plays a role, as does overgrazing, which reduces vegetative cover, and therefore the ability of the soil to retain moisture. By replacing vegetative cover’s moist soil, which contributes water vapor to the atmosphere to help generate rainfall, with bare, shiny desert soil that merely reflects sunlight directly back into space, the capacity for rainfall is diminished.


The study found that biomass burning by herders who burn the grassland to stimulate new growth also stymies convection that can bring rainfall.  The study indicated that having too many aerosols in the form of particles from the fire of burning grasslands can inhibit the formation of raindrops.


Scientists from NASA studied data from NASA’s moderate resolution spectroradiometer and the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission to analyze how wildfires can affect water cycles. This study found a connection between increased wildfires and a lack of precipitation. Due to some study anomalies, different research modeling is currently being developed to examine more in depth the relationship between large-scale biomass burning and drought.


Image of NASA's study region in Africa