The Amazon is burning at an alarming rate as tens of thousands of fires lay waste to the world's largest tropical rainforest.
There have been more than 74,000 wildfires across Brazil this year, up 85% over the same period in 2018, and about 40,000 of them are burning in the Amazon, according to the country's National Institute of Space Research.
The Amazon is often called "the lungs of the world," absorbing greenhouse gases that would otherwise harm the planet. It also is home to a number of indigenous people who rely on the forest's resources.
Here's why it's on fire and why it has become such a big problem.
The Amazon is a giant carbon sink. If it burns, that carbon will all go into the atmosphere
Amazon contains 90 to 140 billion tons of co2, according to WWF. Too much carbon in the atmosphere is one of the main reasons behind climate change.
Imagine if all of that carbon was released into the atmosphere. Imagine if even a fraction of it was.
The results could be devastating.
It's like what we learned in grade school: Plants take in carbon and release oxygen. The Amazon is important because it produces so much oxygen -- but if those trees and other plants are destroyed, it wouldn't be able to take in that much carbon anymore or produce nearly as much oxygen.
Before the fires, land conversion and deforestation made the Amazon release up to 0.5 billion metric tons of carbon per year, according to the WWF. Depending on the damage from these fires, that release would increase, accelerating climate change even further.
The Amazon helps regulate the world's climate
Basically, the Amazon is a huge hydrological engine.
Water is released by plants into the atmosphere, and also to the ocean through the Amazon's rivers. Weather patterns are largely driven by ocean currents, according to NOAA. Currents help regulate weather, transporting warm water and precipitation from the equator toward the poles, and colder water from the poles to the tropics. Without these currents, regional temperatures would be a lot more extreme.
Where does the Amazon come in? Well, because of its immense size, it releases a lot of water through evaporation. If we lose parts of it, that means less evaporation, which means it would contribute less to stabilizing our climate.