The drought fits a pattern of more extreme weather in the world’s largest rain forest in recent years and is, scientists say, an expected result of global warming. Last year, the region was hit by widespread flooding and in 2005 it endured a devastating drought.
The level of the dark Rio Negro, a tributary to the Amazonas river and itself the world’s largest black-water river, fell to 13.63 meters (45 feet) on Sunday, its lowest since records began in 1902, according to the Brazilian Geological Service. Only last year it hit a record high of 29.77 meters (98 feet).
“I’ve worked in the region about 30 years and never seen anything like the last few years. This has everything to do with climate change.”
Amazonas state says the emergency has affected 62,000 people in 38 municipal areas, and that 600 tonnes of food aid has been distributed by plane and boat. The Brazilian government announced last week it was releasing 23 million reais ($13.5 million) in emergency aid.
Soy producers that rely on the Madeira river in Amazonas state to ship barges of the food product have been forced to divert loads at great expense to ports in the southeast of the country some 2,000 km (1,250 miles) away.
Some scientists say that this year’s drought may have been exacerbated by the El Nino weather phenomenon in 2009/10 and an active hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean that may have sucked up moisture from the south.
But Daniel Nepstad, an U.S. ecologist with Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute, said the link between those phenomena and this year’s drought appeared less clear than it had been in 2005.
“I think it’s reason for some pretty deep concern over the Amazon ecosystem,” he said. “We’re seeing the reliability of the seasons in the Amazon break down.”
The source article Brazil's Amazon Region Suffers Severe Drought was published October 27, 2010 by Planet Ark .