Amazon rainforest recovering from its second 100-year drought in 5 years

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:32 PM GMT on December 03, 2010

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Life-giving rains have returned over the past two months to Earth's greatest rainforest--the mighty Amazon--after it experienced its second 100-year drought in five years this year. The record drought began in April, during the usual start to the region's dry season, when rainfall less than 75% of average fell over much of the southern Amazon (Figure 2.) The drought continued through September, and by October, when the rainy season finally arrived, the largest northern tributary of the Amazon River--the Rio Negro--had dropped to thirteen feet (four meters) below its usual dry season level. This was its lowest level since record keeping began in 1902. The low water mark is all the more remarkable since the Rio Negro caused devastating flooding in 2009, when it hit an all-time record high, 53 ft (16 m) higher than the 2010 record low. The 2010 drought is similar in intensity and scope to the region's previous 100-year drought, which hit the Amazon in 2005, according to Brazil's National Institute of Space Research. Severe fires burned throughout the Amazon in both 2005 and 2010, leading to declarations of states of emergencies.


Figure 1. Hundreds of fires (red squares) generate thick smoke over a 1000 mile-wide region of the southern Amazon rain forest in this image taken by NASA's Aqua satellite on August 16, 2010. The Bolivian government declared a state of emergency in mid-August due to the out-of-control fires burning over much of the country. Image credit: NASA.

Causes of the great 2010 Amazon drought
During the 20th Century, drought was a frequent visitor to the Amazon, with significant droughts occurring an average of once every twelve years. These droughts typically occurred during El Niño years, when the unusually warm waters present along the Pacific coast of South America altered rainfall patterns. But 2010 was a La Niña year. The 100-year drought of 2005 occurred in an El Niño-neutral year. Subsequent analysis of the 2005 drought revealed that it was unlike previous El Niño-driven droughts, and instead was caused by record warm sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic (Phillips et al., 2009.) These warm ocean waters affected the southern 2/3 of the Amazon though reduced precipitation and higher than average temperatures. Very similar record Atlantic sea surface temperatures were observed in 2010, and likely were the dominant cause for the 2010 drought.


Figure 2. The great Amazon drought of 2010 began in April, when portions of the southern Amazon recorded precipitation amounts less than 75% of normal (brown colors). The drought spread northward and peaked during July and August, but drew to a close by November when the rainy season began. Image credit: NOAA Climate Prediction Center.

The importance of the Amazon to Earth's climate
We often hear about how important Arctic sea ice is for keeping Earth's climate cool, but the Amazon may be even more important. Photosynthesis in the world's largest rainforest takes about 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the air each year. However, in 2005, the drought reversed this process. The Amazon emitted 3 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere, causing a net 5 billion ton increase in CO2 to the atmosphere--roughly equivalent to 16 - 22% of the total CO2 emissions to the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels that year. According to Phillips et al., 2009, "The exceptional growth in atmospheric CO2 concentrations in 2005, the third greatest in the global record, may have been partially caused by the Amazon drought effects documented here." The Amazon stores CO2 in its soils and biomass equivalent to about fifteen years of human-caused emissions, so a massive die-back of the forest could greatly accelerate global warming. In late 2009, before the 2010 drought, the World Wildlife Federation released a report, Major Tipping Points in the Earth's Climate System and Consequences for the Insurance Sector, which suggested that odds of extreme 2005-like droughts in the Amazon had increased from once every 40 - 100 years, to once every 20 years. The study projected that the extreme droughts would occur once every two years by 2025 - 2050. This year's drought gives me concern that this prediction may be correct. The occurrence of two extreme droughts in the past five years, when no El Niño conditions were present and record warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures occurred, are suggestive of a link between global warming and extreme Amazon drought. If the climate continues to warm as expected, the future health of Earth's greatest rainforest may be greatly threatened, and the Amazon may begin acting to increase the rate of global warming. According to Rosie Fisher, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado who specializes in interactions between climate and forests, "I'm genuinely quite alarmed by this. In some ways it kind of reminds me of when they figured out than the Greenland ice sheet was melting much faster than the climate models predicted it would."

Deforestation in Brazilian Amazon falls to lowest rate on record
There is some good news from the Amazon--deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon have fallen 14% in the past year, and are at their lowest rate on record, according to mongabay.com, an environmental science and conservation news site that focuses on tropical forests. In 2009, Brazil passed a law committing to a 36 - 39% reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases. Reducing deforestation by 80% by 2020 was the primary method envisioned to achieve the reduction. Brazil is now four years ahead of that schedule, and no longer is the world's biggest deforester--Indonesia now cuts down more acreage of forest each year than Brazil does.

For more information
Nick Sundt at the WWF Climate Blog has a remarkably detailed post on this year's Amazon drought, and Dr. Joe Romm at climateprogress.org has another excellent post.

Phillips, et al., 2009, Drought Sensitivity of the Amazon Rainforest, Science 6 March 2009: Vol. 323 no. 5919 pp. 1344-1347 DOI: 10.1126/science.1164033.

I'll have new post Monday or Tuesday.

Jeff Masters

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A little nippy in South Florida this morning for this time of the year... I might be able to put a log in the fireplace without having to turn the A/C on.
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Weather Alerts For Palm Beach County
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Good morning. 30 deg. in Concord, nc
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Not to be abrasive, but am I the only one who finds AC/DC severely overrated?





Nope!
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 519
Hey, Levi... thought I was the only one still up on the blog... lol
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Quoting TaylorSelseth:
I love how Dr. Masters owned the GW denier up-thread!

Up here in the Red River Valley we are gonna be the coldest spot in the lower 48 over the next few days. As usual the deniers will pull the "it's -5F out, Global Warming my rear end!" nonsense, as if cold weather in FARGO means all the scientists in the world are wrong, very annoying.


Of course not. And global warming theory would result in the southeastern U.S. staying cooler than normal, at least relative to everywhere else.
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Hey.... We have a low centred over us...

Reading at Wrn end of New Providence: wind from the SSW.... from the airport, about 5 miles east.... calm..... from Ft. Charlotte, on the north central coast of the island... winds out of the north.....

Pretty cool.

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 20742
Quoting KoritheMan:


Not to be abrasive, but am I the only one who finds AC/DC severely overrated?


It's all a matter of taste, I suppose. I would disagree.

"Back in Black has sold an estimated 49 million units worldwide, making it the highest-selling album by any band and the second-highest-selling album in history, behind Thriller by Michael Jackson.[7][8] The album has sold 22 million in the US alone, where it is the fifth-highest-selling album.[9] AC/DC ranked fourth on VH1's list of the "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock"[10][11] and were named the seventh "Greatest Heavy Metal Band of All Time" by MTV.[12] In 2004, AC/DC were ranked number 72 in the Rolling Stone list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".[13]
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
Quoting KoritheMan:


Not to mention ignorant.


Well that kinda goes without sayin'... ;-)
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Quoting TaylorSelseth:
I love how Dr. Masters owned the GW denier up-thread!

Up here in the Red River Valley we are gonna be the coldest spot in the lower 48 over the next few days. As usual the deniers will pull the "it's -5F out, Global Warming my rear end!" nonsense, as if cold weather in FARGO means all the scientists in the world are wrong, very annoying.


Not to mention ignorant.
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Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:

We'll be......







Not to be abrasive, but am I the only one who finds AC/DC severely overrated?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I love how Dr. Masters owned the GW denier up-thread!

Up here in the Red River Valley we are gonna be the coldest spot in the lower 48 over the next few days. As usual the deniers will pull the "it's -5F out, Global Warming my rear end!" nonsense, as if cold weather in FARGO means all the scientists in the world are wrong, very annoying.
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Delete, double post
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233. DDR
The Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Services is
issuing a riverine flood alert for Trinidad having
regard to the occurrence of persistent rainfall
activity over the last 18 – 24 hours.
This latest rainfall event began favouring the
northeast sector of Trinidad and has already
emptied considerable precipitation to engineer
riverine floods but isolated to this region.
The center is now shifting with maximum
concentrations eclipsing central Trinidad, parts
of North Trinidad and areas of South Trinidad.
These locations are already estimated to have
received between 50 – 60 millimeters of
rainfall.



The atmospheric dynamics is showing a tendency for
the northern fringes of Inter-Tropical Convergence
Zone (ITCZ) to merge with this quasi-stationary
shear line currently affecting both Trinidad and
Tobago. This possible development together with
an upper level trough and highly supportive upper
level flows may broaden the area of instability to
unleash a new burst of energy capable of producing
significant rainfall overnight into tomorrow.
Conservative estimates are for between 75-100
millimeters of rainfall accumulation.
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231. DDR
Quoting FLPandhandleJG:
Columbia-Rains

Its getting worse over Columbia.. 174 dead, 1.5 million homeless from the rains.. This is so sad..

Poland deaths from deep freeze reach 30

Weather getting crazy.. Not mentioning about Buffalo lake effect snow event few days ago..

Let me ask this and see if anyone responds.. Since Europe and Afghanistan possibly some places from last year got some cold snaps and unusual snowstorms.. So far Poland and United Kingdom are getting rediculous cold snaps and snow storms.. What happen if that trend hits us in the near future.. Anybody think it would happen or just depends what could set-up ??

Crazy is joke
blame it on la nina
rains are causing havoc here in Trinidad
Eastern areas have seen as many as 3 major floods in the last 10 days,today included.
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Quoting FLPandhandleJG:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20101204/wl_afp/colombiaweatherfloods

Its getting worse over Columbia.. 174 dead, 1.5 million homeless from the rains.. This is so sad..


Sad indeed. Wonder what kind of aid they're getting.
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
Columbia-Rains

Its getting worse over Columbia.. 174 dead, 1.5 million homeless from the rains.. This is so sad..

Poland deaths from deep freeze reach 30

Weather getting crazy.. Not mentioning about Buffalo lake effect snow event few days ago..

Let me ask this and see if anyone responds.. Since Europe and Afghanistan possibly some places from last year got some cold snaps and unusual snowstorms.. So far Poland and United Kingdom are getting rediculous cold snaps and snow storms.. What happen if that trend hits us in the near future.. Anybody think it would happen or just depends what could set-up ??
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
For West Palm Beach



Geez, only 60 on Tuesday. I don't remember it being this cold in South Florida in December, ever.
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Quoting pottery:
I was just scanning through some news channels, and note that the ongoing talks in Mexico are getting some coverage all over the place.
BBC News has some good articles.

But no mention of this, on US news sites.
How come????


Hummm, well perhaps the Wikileaks coming out (and the exposure is astounding on manipulation) on the underhanded and unusual tactics employed by the U.S. relating to last years climate meeting, if you will, or the continued dismay relating to the Chicago Climate Exchange that folded completely last month or the decree from Japan abandoning Kyoto Protocol participation at the current meeting ?

Ya ain't gonna see that news on the news in the US anytime soon or here.

Just sayin, do your homework :)

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225. JRRP
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For West Palm Beach

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Quoting FLPandhandleJG:


If so.. then its going to be some football weather for the FSU vs. Vtech game.. b/c they play in Raleigh, NC.. should be a good game..


FSU 3, VT 7: 1st
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
Nvm my other post about raliegh with Fsu vs VTech.. lol I thought it was raleigh but its charlotte .. whoops!
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:



Not the first time I've been wrong!

Ask Nea!


lol. Glad we were able to enlighten you.
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
Quoting Neapolitan:

Actually, the second one roughly means, "Interesting that denial of the truth takes place in different languages".


Ah, thanks for the correction. It's been way too long....
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690
Quoting KerryInNOLA:

Major cold snap on the way. Will no doubt stir up the misguided passion of the antiAGW crowd. Sigh


Yep.. lol
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WOCN11 CWTO 042058
Special weather statement
Issued by Environment Canada Ontario region.
Saturday 4 December 2010.

Special weather statement issued for..
City of Toronto
Windsor - Essex - Chatham-Kent
Sarnia - Lambton
Elgin
London - Middlesex
Simcoe - Delhi - Norfolk
Dunnville - Caledonia - Haldimand
Oxford - Brant
Niagara
City of Hamilton
Halton - Peel
York - Durham
Huron - Perth
Waterloo - Wellington
Dufferin - Innisfil
Grey - Bruce
Barrie - Orillia - Midland.

It's beginning to look a lot like...Winter.

A strengthening storm system over the Maritimes and a large Arctic
high pressure ridge over the Prairies will create the ingredients
For the first real winterlike weather across many parts of Southern
Ontario. Words such as wind chill and snow squalls will cross many
people's lips over the next few days, as old man winter strives
To flush out the remnants of autumn.

Brisk northwest winds of 30 to 50 km/h with the odd gust to 60 will
affect much of the region for several days beginning Sunday. The
mercury will struggle to reach minus 2 in many areas with chill
values hovering around minus 10. These winds will deliver more
concentrated snow squalls in some of the more traditional snow belts
as well. Regions near and to the southeast of both Collingwood and
Grand Bend will be on the receiving end of sizeable snowfall amounts
over the coming days. Total accumulations in excess of 60 cm are
quite likely by Tuesday or Wednesday. Snow squall watches are in
effect for these regions and will be upgraded to warnings as
required.

The greater Toronto area will also likely be on the receiving end of
its first enduring snowfall of the season. The Georgian Bay snow
squall is expected to stretch down to the Toronto region Sunday
afternoon and oscillate across the city Sunday night and Monday.
Although no serious accumulations are expected due to the wandering
nature of the snow band, several centimetres are likely over the
course of the next few days, along with local blowing snow and
reduced visibilities at times.

Travel may become particularly hazardous over the coming days
especially in heavier snow squalls. People are urged to update
Their emergency car kits and dress for mid winter cold.

Listen for further statements. Additional information may also be
found by consulting the latest public forecast. The next public
forecast will be issued by 5.00 AM.

END/OSPC
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


Got some good snow here in Raleigh. Was really coming down as heavy wet flakes about an hour ago. I got some really great photos of the snow I'll be posting on my blog.

For now, I have a blog post on the weather system producing the snow here.


If so.. then its going to be some football weather for the FSU vs. Vtech game.. b/c they play in Raleigh, NC.. should be a good game..
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Looks like Tomas's cousin.
Link
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Quoting number4steel:
snowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwing here in eastern nc . probably means in will be 70 degrees in mid january


Got some good snow here in Raleigh. Was really coming down as heavy wet flakes about an hour ago. I got some really great photos of the snow I'll be posting on my blog.

For now, I have a blog post on the weather system producing the snow here.
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snowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwing here in eastern nc . probably means in will be 70 degrees in mid january
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Quoting IKE:
I see what Bastardu is talking about....I see the next blast of cold-air, after this one, invading the SE USA in about 8-9 days according to the latest GFS. GFS has been flip-flopping on the moisture available with that feature, along the gulf coast.

Looks like this first shot will have a chance at coming close on record lows in the SE USA.

Make sure you have chap stick...Curel and a jacket. Should make for good hair days though:)


Good Morning IKE~~ Is that the same prognosis for Alabama, cold and rainy? I thought we was suppose to have a mild winter this yr and not so cold and rainy. When it gets that cold it just about closes our boat repair shop down. And we don't need that, seeing I have my sister and her daughter and my daughter and her husband and there baby is due Jan 20 and then my son and his wife and Caleb and there new baby due Feb 8th and the the new 2 additions to my little family are all boys. My youngest Ashley is working 2 jobs trying to pay for her car and insurance.She wants to go to college so bad but but don't have the money.Between here working both jobs she gets paid every 2 weeks she pays car note out of that one and the other one pays insurance and save the rest to run on gas to get back and for to work til she gets her next check. She don't go out or anything just works and and that's it. She is 21 and i am very proud of her for what she's doing. It's just really hard on young kids these days you have to know someone for your child to be able to get a decent job and where just middle class folks trying to keep our head above the water and a couple of times we gurgle cause where sinking. but everyone these days are in the same boat the way the recession is, they say it's getting better well here in the south it isn't they're are so many businesses going out of business There's Daryl and I and 2 new babies on the way ones due in Jan 20 then Feb 8th. Boy sometimes u just wonder which to turn.


I know this was totally off the subject and sorry for that Just had to get it off my chest. Sorry, I hope I don't get reported.

But I was still wondering if it's gonna be a very cold and rainy winter down here in Lower Alabama well Satsuma

Thanks for your time,
sheri
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


Nope.

"yes, but not caused by man" (referring to warmer SSTs)

"interesting that the debate about the truth takes place in many languages"

I think...



Not the first time I've been wrong!

Ask Nea!
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 519
Quoting DoverWxwatchter:
That is about the most naked swirl I have ever seen Skyepony.



Naked swirls are so hot!
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Quoting DontAnnoyMe:


Nope.

"yes, but not caused by man" (referring to warmer SSTs)

"interesting that the debate about the truth takes place in many languages"

I think...

Actually, the second one roughly means, "Interesting that denial of the truth takes place in different languages".
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13306
Beautiful day over South Florida. It doesn't get much better than this.

South Fort Myers, Oakbrook, Fort Myers, Florida (PWS)
Updated: 3 sec ago
76.3 °F
Clear
Humidity: 25%
Dew Point: 34 °F
Wind: 4.5 mphfrom the WSW

Wind Gust: 8.3 mph
Pressure: 29.55 in (Steady)
Heat Index: 77 °F
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 3 out of 16
Pollen: 3.40 out of 12
Pollen Forecast new!
Clouds: Clear -
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 14 ft

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197. Skyepony (Mod)
Abele is a naked swirl..
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:


si pero no lo causamos los humanos

Me entristece ver que la negacin de la verdad existe en muchos idiomas. ;-)


I don't speak spanish but I'll take a stab at the translation.

"Humans are a lost cause."

and

"The negotiators are a bunch of idiots."


My attempting to translate from spanish must be what it feels like for illiterates.
Not a good feeling.

Was I anywhere near correct?




Nope.

"yes, but not caused by man" (referring to warmer SSTs)

"interesting that the debate about the truth takes place in many languages"

I think...
Member Since: September 21, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 3690

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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.