Environment & the World

Monday, July 31, 2006

Amazon drought

Filed under: Climate Change, Energy, Forests — Cathy @ 12:38 am

It’s not just the U.S. that’s been feeling a heat wave recently.  The Amazon rainforest appears to be heading into its second year of drought:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=2&ObjectID=10392615

 The drought is driven by a combination of deforestation and global warming.  Ecologists fear that the Amazon is approaching a “tipping point”, beyond which it will convert into a completely different type of ecosystem – “dry savannah at best, desert at worst.”  Previous studies have suggested that 3 straight years of drought would cause much of the forest to die, releasing significant amounts of carbon dioxide.  The forest contains 90 billion tons of carbon dioxide, so if half of that were released, it would be equivalent to about 6 years worth of human emissions at current levels.

The article does not suggest much in the way of solutions, but presumably it would be necessary to get deforestation under control immediately.  If scientists are correct that the forest will begin to massively die next year, this seems to require an almost super-human effort. 

 Yet, despite all of the press received by Al Gore’s recent movie, if you search for “Amazon drought” in Google News, only one of the top 10 hits is from an American news source. 

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3 Comments »

  1. Wow, some other shocking facts from the article:

    -Last year was the worst drought in recorded history in the Amazon river basin region.

    -In addition to the climate change implications with regard to co2 emissions, “Millions of fish died, and thousands of communities whose only transport was by water were stranded.”

    Losing that huge carbon sink and releasing all that CO2 could indeed hasten or exacerbate the rate of climate change. I also wonder about another aspect of losing that much forest. We call the rainforests the “lungs of the earth,” and I wonder how much oxygen producing capacity we could lose with the disappearance of so much forest.

    Comment by Amir — Friday, August 4, 2006 @ 2:01 am

  2. There’s a good discussion of the recent Amazon drought issue on RealClimate here:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/08/amazonian-drought/

    Also an interesting comment (#35) from the Woods Hole Research Center, and lead investigator on the forest drought experiment whose results were covered (and perhaps a bit exaggerated) in recent coverage of the Amazon drought.

    Comment by Amir — Tuesday, August 8, 2006 @ 10:19 am

  3. never a truer word said

    Comment by paul mcgrew — Thursday, February 22, 2007 @ 2:39 am


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