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Rare fire tornado, in Brazilian desert-like weather

By Sara Star     Aug 28, 2010 in Environment
San Paulo - A fire tornado has been caught on video near Sao Paulo, Brazil, where the humidity is almost desert-like. This rare phenomenon is caused by brush fires and dry winds.
Fire tornadoes form when a warm updraft and wildfire meet. They are usually 30-200 feet tall, 10 ft wide, and last only a few minutes. However, some can be more than 1/2 mile tall and persist for more than 20 minutes.
The largest on record occurred in 1923, when a giant fire tornado was ignited by an earthquake in Tokyo which led to the deaths of 38,000 people in 15 minutes.
Wild fires have tripled this year in Brazil. Burning trees, an outdated method of razing the forest for crop fields is still being used. Although federal laws have been passed to ban the practice, it is also commonplace for sugarcane fields to be burned prior to harvest to "facilitate harvesting, fertilize fields with ash and remove venomous animals and reptiles".
According to Skynews, it has been three months since the last rainfall in Sao Paulo, and it is already suffering from high level pollution. Humidity has soared to that similar of the Sahara desert. State authorities have banned farmers from the usual burning sugar cane field waste this time of year.
Brazil set pro-active goals at the UN Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen in December 2009. They are ahead of their goals. Deforestation of the Amazon has dropped at least 50% this year due to the Green Arch and Legal Land, which was established by the Federative Republic of Brazil to combat deforestation and land grabbing in the Amazon.
Operation Green Arch is part of that effort but it also includes social assistance programs and attempts to provide local inhabitants viable alternative economic activities - that do not require chopping down trees.
Other factors include
1. Improved surveillance
2. Enforcement of policies on Amazon deforestation,
3. Increased civil society participation in public policy debates
4. Ban of public credit to those liable for forest destruction.
UPDATE: Another fire tornado caught on video in Hawaii, just released by CNN.
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