On a clear morning in late fall, 2013, the Terra satellite passed over Southeastern Brazil, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying aboard to capture a true-color image of the brilliantly green region. The image was captured on the morning of May 9.
Four states make up the Southeast Region of Brazil: from north to south they are Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Espírito Santo and Rio de Janerio states are coastal, and are mostly outside the boundaries of this image, while the more southerly states of Paraná and Santa Catarina can be seen near the lower edge.
The Tropic of Capricorn, located at approximately 23°26’ 14.0” south of the Equator, runs west to east just above the center of the image. This is the most southerly latitude on Earth at which the Sun can be directly overhead, and this occurs on the December solstice. Lying at 23°33’ S, the city of São Paulo lies just south of this line, and can be seen near the coast as a circular gray smudge.
The area southwest of São Paulo appears dark emerald green, and a similar verdant green area lies southwest in Paraná. These are the remnants of the Atlantic Forest, a once expansive forest ecosystem in the region. Today 25 protected areas containing about 470,000 hectares of forest preserve the last remnants in the Atlantic Forest South-East Reserves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In contrast to the dense, dark greens of the native Atlantic Forest, surrounding areas, especially in the north inland regions, appear light green and even tan in some areas. At higher resolution the light greens and tans can be seen to be primarily made up of many rectangular shapes, which are cultivated fields and clear cuts, and indicate where forests have been destroyed as land is converted to other uses. Fires speckle the landscape, and are likely either agricultural in origin, or fires deliberately set to clear stumps and debris left over as forests are felled.
According to a story run by Reuters and run by the Chicago Tribune in January of 2013, after years of gains against destruction of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, the trends began to reverse in late 2012. In December, data from Imazon, a Brazilian research institute that tracks deforestation, pointed to an increase in destruction of the world’s largest rainforest.
A report released by Imazon in February, 2013 stated that in the forest area in Legal Amazon (which includes areas outside of this image), accumulated deforestation from August 2012 to February 2013 was 1,351 km2, an increase of 91% compared to the prior period (August 2011 to February 2012).