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Brazil drought reduces Amazon river port water levels to 121-year record low. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly/File Photo

Boats and houseboats are seen stranded at David's Marina, as the water level at a major river port in Brazil's Amazon rainforest hit its lowest point in at least 121 years on Monday, at the Rio Negro river in Manaus, Brazil October 16, 2023. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly/File Photo

Historic Amazon Drought To Get Worse

Total Views: 3537
October 22, 2023

By Beatriz Amat

(Bloomberg) –There is no relief in sight for a historic drought in Brazil’s Amazon that has been disrupting river transport, causing forest fires and killing wildlife, according to a prominent climate scientist.

No precipitation is expected for the immediate horizon in northern Brazil even though the rainy season normally starts in late September or early October, atmospheric physicist Paulo Artaxo said in an interview. Climate change has left weather models imprecise and outdated, and any projection for when the rainy season will start is a shot in the dark, he added.  

“We should have already entered the rainy season, and this obviously isn’t happening,” Artaxo said. The climate “has already changed. Most countries are not prepared to deal with the rise of extreme climate events.”  

The water level at the Rio Negro river, the main tributary to the Amazon, is at the lowest since 1902, according to the Geologic Survey of Brazil. It will take up to two months of rain for Amazonian rivers to rise enough for navigation to normalize, Artaxo said. About 30 million Brazilians live in the Amazon and they rely on rivers to transport essentials including food, medicine and drinking water. The drought has forced some soy and corn shipments to be rerouted to other ports in Brazil’s south. A hydroelectric dam in the Amazon was temporarily shut this month. Forest fires are on the rise and river dolphins have been dying.

Heat waves that swept Europe, the US and Asia earlier this year show that extreme weather events are getting more frequent and intense around the planet, and governments need to act fast to adjust to the new reality, he said. For the Amazon it could mean finding alternatives for transporting crops and other goods due to low water levels.

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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