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Amazon's Drought Prompts Scientists to Monitor Effects of Climate Change

Sep 15, 2014 10:07 AM EDT
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Amazon's current drought, brought on by the lack of its "flying rivers," is causing concern among scientists, who have thus decided to build a giant tower in the middle of the rainforest to monitor the effects of climate change.
(Photo : Flickr: CIAT)

Amazon's current drought, brought on by the lack of its "flying rivers," is causing concern among scientists, who have thus decided to build a giant tower in the middle of the rainforest to monitor the effects of climate change.

The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory, standing at 325 meters tall, is being constructed some 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the Amazonian city of Manaus. Its height advantage will allow it to gather data on greenhouse gases, aerosol particles and the weather in the hopes of better understanding sources of greenhouse gases and the effects of climate change.

"The measurement point is widely without direct human influence, and therefore ideal to investigate the meaning of the forest region for the chemistry and physics of the atmosphere," Jurgen Kesselmeier, one of the project coordinators, said as quoted on the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz website.

While some believe the Amazon's lack of rain is simply a quirk of nature, others believe it's caused by the absence of the "flying rivers" - the vapor clouds from the Amazon that normally bring rain to the center and south of Brazil.

This, in combination with continued deforestation and global warming, is reducing the role of the Amazon rainforest as a giant "water pump," releasing billions of liters of humidity from the trees into the air in the form of vapor, The Guardian reported.

Deforestation in Brazil is reaching alarming proportions, with rates having increased by 29 percent last year. Such massive tree loss is directly affecting the Amazon's ability to serve as a crucial water pump to the region, according to scientists.

"Destroying the Amazon to advance the agricultural frontier is like shooting yourself in the foot," leading climate scientist Antonio Nobre said, according to The Guardian. "The Amazon is a gigantic hydrological pump that brings the humidity of the Atlantic Ocean into the continent and guarantees the irrigation of the region."

Nobre warned back in 2009 that if deforestation did not stop, the region would experience a catastrophe in the next five or six years. His prophecy seems to have come true. Now that that time has come, São Paulo and all Brazil's center and southeast are suffering their worst drought ever, with devastating effects on agriculture, energy and domestic water supplies.

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