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June 26, 2020

Amazon droughts

Opinion

June 26, 2020

Over the past 20 years, like clockwork, severe droughts have hit the Amazon every five years with regularity 2005, 2010, 2015. Of course, droughts have hit the Amazon rainforest throughout paleoclimate history, but this time it’s different. The frequency and severity is off the charts.

Recent data is starting to show 2020 as another dire year. “The old paradigm was that whatever carbon dioxide we put up in [human-caused] emissions, the Amazon would help absorb a major part of it,” according to Sassan Saatchi of NASA’s JPL. (Source: NASA Finds Amazon Drought Leaves Long Legacy of Damage, NASA Earth Science, Aug. 9, 2018)

But serious episodes of drought in 2005, 2010 and 2015 are causing researchers to rethink that idea. “The ecosystem has become so vulnerable to these warming and episodic drought events that it can switch from sink to source depending on the severity and the extent,” Saatchi said. “This is our new paradigm,” ibid.

According to a detailed study: “Several studies indicate that the region has been suffering severe drought since the end of the last century, as in 1997/1998, 2005, 2010 and 2015. The intensity and frequency of these extreme drought episodes in the AB during the last years, approximately one episode every five years with a significant increase in the coverage area, is remarkable.” (Beatriz Nunes Garcia, et al, Extreme Drought Events Over the Amazon Basin: The Perspective from the Reconstruction of South American Hydroclimate, Departamento de Meteorologia, Instituto de Geociências, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Nov 7, 2018)

This year 2020 is shaping up to be a repeat performance, another “remarkable event.” Recent studies indicate: “The data suggests 2020 could be a particularly dire year for the Amazon.” (Source: “14 Straight Months of Rising Amazon Deforestation in Brazil,” Mongabay d/d June 12, 2020)

All of which begs the question: How much more abuse can the magnificent rainforest handle for how long?

However, hard-hitting droughts are not the only negative hitting the Amazon rainforest. Failure by political forces is also pounding the rainforest, as the Bolsanaro regime gooses abuse and overuse. As a result, people are striking back. Civil society groups and public prosecutors in Brazil are taking President Jar Bolsonaro’s government to court for failing to protect the rainforest.

“The Amazon rainforest – 60 percent of which lies in Brazil – is one of the world’s great carbon sinks. Preserving its trees and plants is crucial to meeting international targets that limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.” (Source: To Stop Amazon Deforestation, Brazilian Groups Take Bolsonaro to Court, Deutsche Welle, June 13, 2020)

Excerpted from: 'Amazon Rainforest Hit By Killer Droughts'.

Counterpunch.org