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Brazilian Amazon Suffers Worst Drought in 100 Years

Severe drought in Amazon rainforest in Brazil In Brazil, a long-lasting drought that affected the Amazon Rain Forest last year was worse than the once-in-a-lifetime drought that the region suffered in 2005. A team of British and Brazilian scientists are now saying it may have a bigger impact on global warming than the US does in a year. 

The widespread drought has raised concerns about the rainforest’s future as a major absorber of carbon emissions, the scientists said in a study released last week. The latest drought is believed to be the worst in the last 100 years.

Frequent severe dry spells like the ones in 2005 and 2010 risk turning the Amazon from a greenhouse gas eater into a source of the gases, which could definitely accelerate global warming, the report said.

Since the droughts killed off many trees, the team predicts that the Amazon will not be able to absorb as much carbon dioxide as usual in the coming years.

Even worse, rotting trees may release as much as 5 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in the years to come, almost as much as the entire United States emitted from fossil fuel usage in 2009.

“If events like this happen more often, the Amazon rain forest would reach a point where it shifts from being a valuable carbon sink slowing climate change to a major source of greenhouse gases that could speed it up,” said lead author Simon Lewis, an ecologist at the University of Leeds.

Lewis is the scientist who received an apology from the Sunday Times newspaper last year for their report on the so-called “AmazonGate” affair.

He said it is “difficult to detect patterns from just two observed droughts, but to have them close together is concerning.”

Both droughts were associated with abnormally warm seas in the Atlantic Ocean off the Brazilian coast. “If that turns out to be driven by escalating greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, it could imply that we’ll see more drought years in the near future,” Lewis told BBC News.

Scientists used data from a US/Japanese satellite – Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) – that monitors rainfall along a belt that extends either side of the equator for their research.

Observation of data showed that the 2010 drought covered more than 1.8 million square miles, whereas the 2005 drought covered only 1.2 million square miles.

The Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and the Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia (IPAM) in Brazil collaborated on the research. The work was funded by the Royal Society, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the US National Science Foundation.

The paper entitled ‘The 2010 Amazon Drought’ by Simon L Lewis, Paulo M Brando, Oliver L Phillips, Geertje MF van der Heijden and Daniel Nepstad was published in the journal Science on Friday February 4, 2011.



  • Show Comments (1)

  • Harrison Murphy

    whats interesting
    Okay, I am young. I am 21 with a college background in art. How ever I feel [b]I have a valid statement to make about this article. Doctors and scientists alike please hear me.[/b] Growing up in the world that I have, and living in North America I have seen the disconnect that people have from their bodies and minds. Children Mindless in front of the television. Adults in front of the television mindless, watching the sports game. Obese people eating fast food, disconnected from their bodies; satisfying their minds. I learned from a young age, by the grace of my mother about the human mind, the human body and the human spirit. Our histories, our mistakes, our choices.
    [b]I can see the disconnect we have from our outer body. Our planet.[/b]
    I remember going to school and in social studies we would talk about the economy and the relation we have with that to the planet. ” we cant change our behaviors it would be to costly”. ” Its to expensive to change ” [b]You cant put the earth on one side of a scale, and bars of gold on the other, because gold is OF the planet. I know this! Don’t we know this!?[/b] [i]The earth is our body, and we have been living out of context. The amazon forest works as our lungs we count on it to keep us going. cant the men of the lumber trade be paid by the same hand to protect it and maintain it. cant we all as a planet some how support these men and women.[/i] This drought will not stop these men from getting up tomorrow to carry on the lumber industry down there.
    Are we doomed then? Have we disconnected so much from love that we must sink our ship? I will drowned with you, as you are me and I am you. But I will do so, knowing better.

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