Amazon rainforest fire pictures circulating on social media are actually decades old

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A decades-old photo of the Amazon rainforest alight is making the rounds on social media, with many falsely believing it’s a representation of the fires afflicting the region in 2019.

The world’s largest rainforest has been burning for weeks, with thick clouds of smoke engulfing surrounding cities.

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However, advocates for awareness have been duped into sharing several misleading photos.

One of the photos was actually taken in 1989 and can be seen in this article about deforestation dated October 2007.

More of’s coverage of the Amazon fires

Another photo purporting to be of the current fires shows hectares of the rainforest burning.

However, this was taken in 1998 and is believed to have been started by a tropical weather event.

Fires advance in the Apiau region of the state of Roraima, Brazil, Thursday, March 19, 1998.Image: AP

The 2019 fires resulted in the city of Sao Paulo being brought to a grinding halt on Monday after choking smoke from fires in the states of Amazonas and Rondonia – almost 3000km away – caused a complete power blackout.

Smoke from the fires can even be seen from space.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday said, without presenting evidence, that non-governmental organizations could be burning down the Amazon rainforest to bring shame on his government after he cut their funding.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) says there have been more than 72,000 individual blazes this year – up 80 percent on 2017 at the same time of year.

Many have taken this to mean the fires are “record-setting”.

While they may be, it’s impossible to tell since the INPE have only been recording their severity since 2013, as per the BBC.

A satelite image of the smoke caused by the Amazon Rainforest fires in 2019.
A satelite image of the smoke caused by the Amazon Rainforest fires in 2019.Image: AP/NASA

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