Quantcast

World's Largest River Floods Five Times More Often Than It Used to

Climate
Flooded suburb of the city of Itacoatiara (Central Amazon region) in 2009. Jochen Schöngart, National Institute for Amazon Research

Extreme floods have become more frequent in the Amazon Basin in just the last two to three decades, according to a new study.

After analyzing 113 years of Amazon River levels in Port of Manaus, Brazil, researchers found that severe floods happened roughly every 20 years in the first part of the 20th century. Now, extreme flooding of the world's largest river occurs every four years on average—or about five times more frequently than it used to.


"With a few minor exceptions, there have been extreme floods in the Amazon basin every year from 2009 to 2015," study lead author, Jonathan Barichivich, environmental scientist at the Universidad Austral de Chile, said in a press release.

This increase in flooding could be disastrous for communities in Brazil, Peru and other Amazonian nations, the researchers pointed out.

"There are catastrophic effects on the lives of the people as the drinking water gets flooded, and the houses get completely destroyed," Barichivich told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, also determined that droughts in the Amazon Basin have increased in frequency.

"Our findings unravel the ultimate causes of the recent intensification—wet season getting wetter, and dry season getting drier—of the water cycle of the largest hydrological basin of the planet," Barichivich told Retuers.

The researchers linked the increase in flooding to a strengthening of the Walker circulation, which is induced by the contrast of warm Atlantic waters and the cooler waters of the Pacific.

Flooded area in the center of Manaus in 2009Jochen Schöngart, National Institute for Amazon Research

This ocean-powered air circulation system, which influences weather patterns and rainfall in the tropics and elsewhere, can partly be attributed to shifts in wind belts caused by climate change, as Reuters noted about the study.

"This dramatic increase in floods is caused by changes in the surrounding seas, particularly the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and how they interact. Due to a strong warming of the Atlantic Ocean and cooling of the Pacific over the same period, we see changes in the so-called Walker circulation, which affects Amazon precipitation," study co-author Manuel Gloor, from Britain's University of Leeds, said in the press release. "The effect is more or less the opposite of what happens during an El Niño event. Instead of causing drought, it results in more convection and heavy rainfall in the central and northern parts of the Amazon basin."

With temperatures in the Atlantic expected to continue warming, the scientists expect to see more of these high water levels in the Amazon River.

"We think that it's going to continue for at least a decade," Barichivich told Reuters.

Inundated house along Solimões River (Central Amazonia) during the record-breaking flood in 2012Jochen Schöngart / National Institute for Amazon Research

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Oil palm plantations in northeastern Borneo, state of Sabah, Malaysia. Recently planted oil palms can be seen in the bright green grassy areas and a tiny bit of natural rainforest still struggles for survival farther away. Vaara / E+ / Getty Images

Palm Oil importers in Europe will not be able to meet their self-imposed goal of only selling palm oil that is certified deforestation-free, according to a new analysis produced by the Palm Oil Transparency Coalition, as Bloomberg reported.

Read More Show Less
Scientists found the most melting near Mould Bay on Prince Patrick Island, NWT, Canada. University of Alaska Fairbanks Permafrost Laboratory

The Canadian Arctic is raising alarm bells for climate scientists. The permafrost there is thawing 70 years earlier than expected, a research team discovered, according to Reuters. It is the latest indication that the global climate crisis is ramping up faster than expected.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pixabay

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Cherries are one of the most beloved fruits, and for good reason.

Read More Show Less
A fuel truck carries fuel into a fracking site past the warning signs Jan. 27, 2016 near Stillwater, Oklahoma. J Pat Carter / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

For more than three decades, the U.S. government has mismanaged toxic oil and gas waste containing carcinogens, heavy metals and radioactive materials, according to a new Earthworks report — and with the country on track to continue drilling and fracking for fossil fuels, the advocacy group warns of growing threats to the planet and public health.

Read More Show Less
European Union blue and gold flags flying at the European Commission building in Brussels, Belgium. 35007/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

Newly adopted guidelines set forth by the European Commission Tuesday aim to tackle climate change by way of the financial sector. The move comes to bolster the success of the Sustainable Action Plan published last year to reorient capital flows toward sustainable investment and manage financial risks from climate change, environmental degradation and social issues.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivering remarks to supporters at a Liberal Climate Action Rally in Toronto, Ontario on March 4. Arindam Shivaani / NurPhoto / Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that his government would once again approve the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would triple the amount of oil transported from Alberta's tar sands to the coast of British Columbia (BC).

Read More Show Less
An exhausted polar bear wanders the streets of Norilsk, a Siberian city hundreds of miles from its natural habitat. IRINA YARINSKAYA / AFP / Getty Images

An exhausted, starving polar bear has been spotted wandering around the Siberian city of Norilsk, Reuters reported Tuesday. It is the first time a polar bear has entered the city in more than 40 years.

Read More Show Less
Bumblebees flying and pollinating a creeping thyme flower. emeliemaria / iStock / Getty Images

It pays to pollinate in Minnesota.

Read More Show Less