No Rain in the Amazon: How South Americas Climate Change Affects the Entire Planet (MacSci)
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Nikolas Kozloff is a Brooklyn-based writer who focuses on politics and environmental questions.
He has spent years living in Latin America and reporting on the wider region. He blogs at the Huffington Post as well as his own personal Web site, http: Are you an author? Help us improve our Author Pages by updating your bibliography and submitting a new or current image and biography. Learn more at Author Central. To see my latest article, click here. To see a version of this article with embedded photos, click here.
To read my most recent article, click here. To read my most recent piece, click here. To read my latest, click here. To see this article with accompanying photo essay, click here. A History of Vandalism: Let The Debate Begin. To read my most recent article click here. Same Old Backward Rightwing Elements. Behind the Coup in Honduras.
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When it comes to U. As a result, when the Obama Administration claimed that it knew that a political firestorm was brewing in Honduras but was surprised when a military coup actually took place this strains my credibility. Popularity Popularity Featured Price: Low to High Price: High to Low Avg. If waters that originate in foreign territories and flow through Brazil are considered the Amazon: The lowest average flow per resident is found in the hydrographic region of the eastern Northeast Atlantic, with an average lower than 1, m3 per capita per year.
In some watersheds in this region, flows are lower than m3 per capita per year. In the semi-arid portion of these regions, where drought has the most serious repercussions, water is a critical factor for the local populations GEO Brasil, Water availability in Brazil depends largely on the climate. In addition, the risks of climate change, whether natural or of anthropogenic origin, have raised great concern in scientific and political circles, in the media and the population in general.
Since the 's, scientific evidence about the possibility of climate change on a global scale has sparked growing interest in the public and the scientific community in general.
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The IPCC was made responsible for reviewing existing scientific studies to evaluate possible future climate change scenarios. Its mission is to assess the latest "scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change". The process used to produce these evaluations was designed to assure high credibility in both the scientific and political community. Previous evaluations were published in , and There are three "work groups": Group 1 evaluates the scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change; Group 2 evaluates the effects of climate changes on nature and society; and Group 3 discusses methods to adapt to and mitigate climate change.
Many less developed countries already confront uncertain and irregular rainy seasons and the forecasts for the future indicate that the climate changes will make the water supply increasingly less predictable and reliable. To save water for the future, is not, therefore, to fight for a distant and uncertain goal. The current trends in water exploration, degradation and pollution have already reached alarming proportions and can affect the water supply in the near future if measures are not taken.
Water and climate change
Climate change means that desertification will sooner or later expel million people from their lands, according to UN estimates. Most of these individuals live in the Third World. The explosive growth of urban populations is also a cause for alarm of the global threat of water shortage.
In the past, the greatest concern of federal and state governments for water management was how to satisfy the demands of an increasingly larger population, and how to confront the problem of droughts or floods. Recently, climate change has been observed as a possible cause of problems that can affect the variability and availability of water quality and quantity.
Changes in the climatic and hydrologic extremes have been observed in the past 50 years, and projections of climate models present great concern for large areas of the tropical region. Possible impacts of climate change: Below are some of the consequences forecast for the different levels of increased temperature of the Earth, according to the Stern Report: Brazil is vulnerable to current climate changes and even more to those projected for the future, especially climatic extremes. The most vulnerable areas include the Amazon and Northeastern Brazil, as shown in recent studies Marengo, ; Ambrizzi et al.
Knowledge of possible future climatic-hydrological scenarios and their uncertainties can help to estimate water demand in the future and also to define environmental policies for future water use and management. This study evaluated the state of the art of knowledge about climate changes and their impact on water availability in the future, considering long term trend studies of the past fifty years and projections of climatic models until the end of the 21st century.
In recent years, the continent has experienced a succession of radical events: At the same time, rains decreased in Chile, in southern Peru and in southwest Argentina. The availability of water for human use and generation of electricity is already compromised and the problem will become aggravated in the future, becoming chronic if measures are not taken according to the report of the IPCC GT2 for Latin America Magrin et al. For the Amazon, a clear trend of an increase or decrease of rains is not identified as expected from deforestation , presenting more of interdecadal variations contrasting between the Northern and Southern Amazon Marengo, In the Northeast, the trends observed also suggest inter-annual variability associated to the El Nino and to the sea surface temperature gradient in the tropical Atlantic as well as decade-long trends associated to changes in the meridional position of the Intertropical Convergence Zone.
In the southeast, the total annual precipitation appears not to have suffered perceptible changes in the past 50 years. The projections for changes in the regimes and distribution of rain in future warmer climates, derived from the global models of the IPCC AR4, are not conclusive, and there is still great uncertainty because these projections vary with the models and regions considered.
The average of all the models, in turn, indicates a greater probability for a reduction of rain in regions such as the Eastern and Northeastern Amazon as a consequence of global warming. In the Amazon, in the Pantanal and in the Northeast, systematic long term positive or negative trends were not identified.
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More important, interannual and interdecadal variations were studied, associated to the natural climate variability, in the same time scale of variability of interdecadal phenomenon in the tropical Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Analyses of river flows in South America and in Brazil Milly et al. Important trends were not observed in the flows of the rivers of the Amazon and San Francisco basin. These projections are very important because the changes in flows can change the frequency of floods and this can damage the ecosystems and affect food production and energy transportation and generation.
The increase in the flows are consistent with the increased rains in the future Meehl et al. Some of the flows in Brazil in the Amazon, Southern Brazil, North and Northeast have high correlations with the fields of anomalies of ocean surface temperature in the Tropical Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The increased temperature and the presence of less water in the soil would in fact transform parts of the Amazon into savannah and areas recognized today as semi-arid will suffer a desertification process that also would affect agricultural areas.
In Brazil's Southeastern and Southern regions, as well as in the Amazon, an intense increase in precipitation has been observed recently, which also has been seen in the past 50 years, as shown in Figure 2a Marengo et al. They found trends towards more humid conditions in southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and in North and Central Argentina.
They note that Southeastern South America experienced an increase in the intensity and frequency of days with intense rain, which agrees with the studies of Groissman et al. Different authors define extreme rain events with different methodologies, using some threshold values or percentiles, which makes a comparison of the results difficult.
In Southern Brazil, Teixeira et al. More recently, Alexander et al. They identify positive trends in the number of days with intense and very intense rains R20 mm concentrated in a short time, and in the quantity of rain concentrated in events that are indicators of rains that produced floods from The absence of data in the tropical region prevents a more comprehensive analysis of the extremes in this part of the continent. For the period of , in relation to the present , in scenario A1B, the extreme events of intense rain show an increase in frequency and contribution of the very rainy days in the western Amazon, while in the eastern Amazon and in the Northeast the trend is for an increase in the frequency of consecutive dry days, which is also observed for the north of the Southeast.
Recent studies Marengo et al. The Western Amazon may experience an increase in the frequency of rain extremes through , which can generate problems of erosion and floods in this region. Nevertheless, the lack of reliable hydrological information in this region does not allow validating the trends simulated for the present. The situation is chaotic and cause for concern in the Amazon.
But this exuberant and essential presence is threatened. The situation became even more complicated in Millions of fish rotted and died in the beds of the Amazon River tributaries that serve as a source of water, food and means of transport for river communities. In Pernambuco, there are only 1, liters of water per person per year. The United Nations recommends a minimum of two thousand liters.
The frequency and intensity of droughts will rise and the availability of water resources will decrease. This will have impacts on the vegetation, the biodiversity and activities that depend on natural resources. In Northeastern Brazil, the biggest problem will be the increased drought and the lack of water. The region can pass from being a semi-arid to an arid zone, and the consequences of this change will affect the nutrition, sanitation and health of the local population. Supply problems should affect nearly 41 million inhabitants of the semi-arid region and its surroundings, according to researchers in the agency, who estimate a growth in population and in the demand for water in about 1, municipalities of the nine states of the Northeast and northern Minas Gerais.
By , half of the agricultural lands can be harmed, with an "elevated" degree of certainty, exposing millions of people to hunger, according to specialists.