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Archive for Climate Change

Drought Continues to Afflict Amazon, Brazil

5.7S 63.1W

November 19th, 2010 Category: Climate Change, Vegetation Index

Brazil - November 16th, 2010

In a one-year period the Amazon region has gone through the biggest flood and now the worst drought. Scientists have expressed surprise, saying that they were expecting these extremes would only happen every 50 years.

This FAPAR image focuses on the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. Here, the vegetation index is highest to the west (rusty red), and good to the east (green), with some areas of low photosynthetic activity (yellow).

The fact that these extreme events are so close may indicate changes in the climate, not only here in Amazonas region of Brazil visible here, but also in the south of Brazil, since the Amazon influences the rains there as well. Deforestation, therefore, affects this entire system.

This drought directly affects the lives of people who live along the rivers. These people depend on the river for transportation, meals, and end up isolated because of the drought. In some areas in the middle of the Amazon basin, people have no water to drink, reported Greenpeace.

Drought Affects Brazilian Amazon

3.2S 60.1W

October 30th, 2010 Category: Climate Change, Rivers, Vegetation Index

Brazil - September 14th, 2010

The full version of this FAPAR image stretches from northeastern Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana (left to right along the coast), across the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest, to the southern border of Brazil.

The areas showing the highest vegetation index (rusty red) are found in northeastern Venezuela. The other countries along the coast show a mostly good index (green). At the bottom of the full image, multiple large deforested areas in Brazil show a low index (yellow).

Interestingly, the Amazon Rainforest itself generally shows only a good index. This may be because it is being afflicted by an unusual severe drought. Some rivers are at their lowest level in decades, including the Amazon River at Manáus (visible near the center of the full image), which has fallen to its lowest level since 1963.

Scientists say the region is facing its worst drought since that year. The Peruvian Amazon, 2,000km (1,240 miles) upstream has also been affected. In Amazonas state 27 municipalities have declared a state of emergency because of the dry spell. Several tributaries of the Amazon have almost completely dried up, paralysing river transport and the fishing industry.

The Brazilian government has announced $13.5m (£8.6m) in emergency aid for Amazon regions hit by the worst drought in decades. The money will fund water pumping and purification, as well as food deliveries to towns cut off by the drop in river levels.

Environmental groups say severe droughts are likely to become more frequent in the Amazon as a result of global warming, putting further strain on the rainforest.

Vegetation Index of Papua, Indonesia’s Rainforests

4.4S 137.4E

February 16th, 2010 Category: Climate Change, Vegetation Index

Papua, Indonesia - February 6th, 2010

Papua, Indonesia - February 6th, 2010

This FAPAR image shows the vegetation index of Papua, the largest province of Indonesia, comprising a majority part of the western half of the island of New Guinea. Most of the province shows good photosynthetic activity (green), with the highest activity (red) visible to the west near the border with the province of West Irian Jaya (West Papua).

A central east-west mountain range dominates the geography of New Guinea, over 1600 km in total length. The western section is around 600 km long and 100 km across. The province contains the highest mountains between the Himalayas and the Andes, rising up to 4884 m high, and ensuring a steady supply of rain from the tropical atmosphere. The tree line is around 4000 m elevation and the tallest peaks contain permanent equatorial glaciers,  although these are melting increasingly, due to a changing climate.

Various other smaller mountain ranges occur both north and west of the central ranges. Except in high elevations, most areas possess a hot humid climate throughout the year, with some seasonal variation associated with the northeast monsoon season.

The third major habitat feature are the vast southern and northern lowlands. Stretching for hundreds of kilometers, these include lowland rainforests, extensive wetlands, savanna grasslands, and some of the largest expanses of mangrove forest in the world.

Deforestation in Cuba and Haiti

20.6N 76.1W

January 18th, 2010 Category: Climate Change

Cuba - December 31st, 2009

Cuba - December 31st, 2009

This FAPAR image focuses on the island nation of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea. Once the full image is opened, the country of Haiti can also be see to the right. Cuba’s main island consists mostly of flat to rolling plains apart from the Sierra Maestra mountains in the southeast.

Despite green to dark red areas indicating good to high photosynthetic activity, Cuba’s main environmental problem is deforestation and desertification. According to Cuba’s Environmental Agency and the Agricultural Ministry, approximately 76% of the country’s potential agriculture land has some level of damage: erosion, salinity or compression. The phenomenon’s origin is due to exploitation, deforestation (many forests are cut down in order to use the terrain for agriculture or cattle rearing) and an intense and irrational use of natural resources.

There are signs of deforestation in 11 out of 14 provinces plus the special municipality of the Isle of Youth, reported Cuba’s Environmental Education, Management and Information Center. Also, the five eastern provinces were reported as having the most desertification.

Haiti also has problems with deforestation: in 1925, the country was lush, with 60% of its original forest covering the lands and mountainous regions. Since then, the population has cut down all but an estimated 2% of its original forest cover, and in the process has destroyed fertile farmland soils, contributing to desertification.

Vegetation Index of Ecuador’s Sierra and Amazon Regions

1.2S 78.3W

January 16th, 2010 Category: Climate Change

Ecuador - December 31st, 2009

Ecuador - December 31st, 2009

Ecuador has three main geographic regions, plus an insular region in the Pacific Ocean: La Costa (the coast), La Sierra (the highlands) and La Amazonia or El Oriente (the East).  The latter two are visible in this FAPAR image.

La Sierra is the high-altitude belt running north-south along the center of the country, its mountainous terrain dominated by the Andes mountain range. La Amazonia comprises the Amazon rainforest areas in the eastern part of the country, accounting for just under half of the country’s total surface area, though populated by less than 5% of the population.

Here, the Amazon region appears bright to dark green, with some dark red areas near the Sierra region, indicating good to high photosynthetic activity. With regards to the biodiversity of the country’s flora, Ecuador has over 16, 000 species of plants.