Lead author Simon Lewis: “Current emissions pathways risk playing Russian roulette with the world’s largest rainforest.”
New research shows that the 2010 Amazon drought may have been even more devastating to the region’s rainforests than the unusual 2005 drought, which was previously billed as a one-in-100 year event.
Analyses of rainfall across 5.3 million square kilometres of Amazonia during the 2010 dry season, published in Science, shows that the drought was more widespread and severe than in 2005.
The UK-Brazilian team also calculate that the carbon impact of the 2010 drought may eventually exceed the 5 billion tonnes of CO2 released following the 2005 event, as severe droughts kill rainforest trees. For context, the United States emitted 5.4 billion tonnes of CO2 from fossil fuel use in 2009.
The authors suggest that if extreme droughts like these become more frequent, the days of the Amazon rainforest acting as a natural buffer to man-made carbon emissions may be numbered.
Lead author Dr Simon Lewis, from the University of Leeds, said: “Having two events of this magnitude in such close succession is extremely unusual, but is unfortunately consistent with those climate models that project a grim future for Amazonia.”
That’s from the University of Leeds’ news release, “Two severe Amazon droughts in five years alarms scientists.” The Science article itself is “The 2010 Amazon Drought” (subs. req’d).
Here’s a figure from the paper comparing the two droughts [click to enlarge]: