GLOBAL WARMING | What is causing the current record drought in the Amazon?

The devastating drought that the Amazon is suffering, which has brought the river to record lows, has continued into the northern hemisphere winter, which is the heart of the wet season in the southern part of the basin. Low water levels in the Amazon and its tributaries have stopped hydroelectric production in the fourth largest dam in Brazil, they have drying drinking waterthey have isolated hundreds of communities that depend on rivers for their transportation and have caused a Mass mortality among river dolphins and fish.

In addition to these serious impacts, the drought also intersected with the fire season in the area, related to human activities such as the use of fire to burn weeds and crop stubble and to clear the tropical forest and obtain new land for agriculture or livestock.

With such dry conditions, these arson often become uncontrollable and burn very extensive forest areas, degrading the rainforest and increasing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

A group of scientists decided to study what factors are causing this srecord drought, which is depriving the most vulnerable rural and riverine communities of food supplies, markets for their crops and health services; what causes electrical blackouts due to interruptions in hydroelectric power; and what strength water rationing in some urban areas.

A boat crosses the remainder of the waters in Lago do Aleixo, in the Amazon, in Manaus (Brazil). EFE / Raphael Alves

It was precisely the most vulnerable populations, small farmers and indigenous, rural and river communities throughout the region, who suffered disproportionately from the impacts of the drought, due to the high poverty rates and its heavy dependence on agricultural food production, the availability of fresh water and the import of goods through rivers.

Strong tendency to desiccate

Exposure to drought impacts was compounded by historical land, water and energy management practices, such as deforestation, vegetation destruction, fires, biomass burning, corporate agriculture, livestock and other socio-climatic problems that have decreased the water and humidity retention capacity of the land, thus worsening drought conditions, according to the study.

Data sets based on meteorological records reveal that the drought is exceptional – even in the current climate – characterized as a one-in-100-year event for the meteorological drought (SPI) and approximately 1 in 50 years in the agricultural drought (SPEI).

While in meteorological drought there is a strong tendency to desiccationthe trend in agricultural drought is even stronger, meaning that this agricultural drought would have been extremely rare in a colder climate.

First, the scientists evaluated the extent to which The boy is a driving factor in this trend. They concluded that El Niño reduced the amount of precipitation in the region to approximately the same extent as climate change; however, The strong drought trend was almost entirely due to rising global temperatures.hence The severity of the drought currently being experienced is largely due to climate change.

Drought in the Amazon. EFE / Raphael Alves

In order to assess whether and to what extent human-induced climate change was a driving factor in this drought, we combined data products based on observations and climate models and analyzed the 6-month meteorological drought (SPI6) as well as agricultural drought (SPEI6). “We verified that the probability of a meteorological drought has increased by 10while agricultural drought has become about 30 times more likely“, they point out.

Increasing water stress

Using the United States drought monitoring classification system, based on agricultural drought, which is now classified as ‘exceptional drought‘, it would have only been a ‘severe drought‘without the effects of climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

Unless the world quickly stops burning fossil fuels and deforesting, these phenomena will become even more frequent in the future.. In a world 2°C warmer than the pre-industrial era, such an event would be even more likely by an additional factor of 4 for agricultural drought (every 10-15 years) and an additional factor of 3 for meteorological drought. (every ~30 years)”, the report states.

Although all countries in the affected region have drought management plansrecent droughts show the need to “reform policies and better integrate proactive support for forecasts and early warnings, drought contingency plans, sustainable water management practices and investment in infrastructure to address future more intense droughts,” the authors state.

The drought in the Amazon coincided with the fire season, which made some uncontrollable. Pixabay

These results highlight that, despite the “low confidence” in the forecasts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on drought in the region, Increasing water stress caused by human-induced climate change, as well as other systemic factors, remains “a major threat to the population and requires urgent efforts to achieve more effective water management strategies.”an interdisciplinary humanitarian response and regional cooperation that includes farmers and other stakeholders in planning,” the document concludes.

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