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Drought in the Amazon Delta Region and Effects on Global Warming – June 2nd, 2013

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June 2nd, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Image of the day, Rivers, Sediments

Brazil – June 1st, 2013

An increased frequency of droughts in the Amazon, particularly the delta region (visible here), such as the ones that occurred in 2005 and 2010, threatens to turn the world’s largest tropical forest from a sponge that absorbs greenhouse gases into a source of them, causing accelerating global warming. This is because the trees normally absorbing carbon dioxide as they grow, helping to cool the planet, release these gases when they die and rot.

The 2010 drought caused a reduction of rainfall in an area of 3 million square kilometres of forest – far more than the 1.9 million square kilometres affected in 2005. Because of this, the Amazon forest will no longer absorb in 2010 and 2011 its usual volume of 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Moreover, the dead and dying trees will release 5 billion tons of gas over the next year, causing the cumulative impact to reach 8 billion tons.

Emissions caused by the two droughts were probably sufficient to cancel all of the carbon absorbed by the Amazon forest in the last ten years. If such events occur more frequently, the Amazon forest would reach a point where, from a valuable store of carbon reducing the speed of climate change, it would change into a large source of greenhouse gases, which could accelerate global warming (click here for more information).

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