Sunday, 06 August 2017 06:00

Study finds human influence in the Amazon's third 1-in-100 year drought since 2005

Amazon Drought Amazon Drought
If you are like me, you picture the Amazon region as an ever lush, wet, tropical region filled with numerous plant and animal species. Who would imagine the Amazon experiencing drought? I mean sure, if we think of drought as “less water than usual,” then any place could have a drought. But what I tend to envision with respect to drought is truly dry.If you are like me, you picture the Amazon region as an ever lush, wet, tropical region filled with numerous plant and animal species. Who would imagine the Amazon experiencing drought? I mean sure, if we think of drought as “less water than usual,” then any place could have a drought. But what I tend to envision with respect to drought is truly dry.

 

People who work in this field have a more advanced understanding than I do about drought, how and why it occurs, its frequency and severity, and the impact on natural and human worlds. This recognition brings us to a very interesting paper recently published in Scientific Reports, entitled Unprecedented drought over tropical South America in 2016: significantly under-predicted by tropical SST [sea surface temperature]. So, what did this paper show? 

Well, the Amazon region does encounter periodic droughts. There was one in 2005, another in 2010, both of which were 100-year events, and the most recent one in 2015-2016. The authors of this study, Amir Erfanian, Guiling Wang, and Lori Fomenko, all from the University of Connecticut, measured drought in three ways. They quantified the precipitation deficits and water storage on the ground. They also used two different vegetation measures of drought. The results showed that the most recent drought was unprecedented in severity.

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