Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo, is experiencing its worst drought in years and scientists say that it is being caused by the continued deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest and climate change.
According to these scientists, deforestation and climate change combined are causing the reduction of vapour clouds (flying rivers), which normally bring rain to the centre and south of Brazil.
INPE (National Space Research Institute) Meteorologist Jose Marengo coined the term ‘flying river’ to describe the phenomenon of water vapour released by the rainforest trees that travels west and then to the south of the country. However, these flying rivers failed to arrive this year unlike the past five years, according to INPE satellite images.
The Amazonian region evaporates 20 bn tonnes of vapour in a single day, which amounts to more water than the Amazon River discharges daily into the Atlantic.
If deforestation activities continue to be undertaken, it is feared that these water droughts will be experienced more frequently. Contributors to the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest include fires being set by farmers to clear areas for planting or cattle-raising. One of Brazil’s leading climate scientists Antonio Nobre considers these fires a particular threat as they introduce many particles into the atmosphere. These particles then dry the flying river clouds, meaning they don’t rain, which leaves the Amazon trees with no resistance to fire and makes it difficult to stop a blaze once it has begun.
Nobre warned in 2009 that in five or six years time there would be a ‘catastrophe’ if deforestation were not avoided. With the recent droughts five years later, it seems the scientist’s fears were more than warranted.
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