“We’re going to have just a big brushpile on our hands..”: The Amazon’s 3 “100 year droughts” in the Last 15 Years
February 7, 2011
In the last 15 years, the Amazon rain forest has been hit by 3 drought events so severe, they would only be expected every 100 years under “normal” conditions.
1997, 2005, and now 2010 have brought unprecendented low water levels to the area, damaged crops, impacted food supplies, and killed billions of trees. The 2010 event may have killed enough trees to eventually release as much CO2 as the United States does in a full year.
A recent study published in Science warned that the ability of the Amazon to remain an important “sink” that soaks up carbon emissions could be jeopardized by continued severe droughts.
According to lead author Simon Lewis, “If events like this happen more often, the Amazon rain forest would reach a point where it shifts from being a valuable carbon sink slowing climate change to a major source of greenhouse gases …”.
As a result of last year’s drought, “the study predicted the Amazon forest would not absorb its usual 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in both 2010 and 2011. In addition, the dead and dying trees would release 5 billion metric tons of the gas in the coming years, making a total impact of about 8 billion metric tons…In comparison, the United States emitted 5.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use in 2009.”, the Huffington Post reported.
NPR pointed out that “If the forest gets dry enough, air can get into the vessels that carry water through a tree — kind of like an air bubble in a fuel line — and a tree dies. If enough die, that too could affect the atmosphere.”
GreenPeace video of 2005 drought: