Climate change main driver of exceptional drought in highly vulnerable Amazon River Basin

Since mid 2023 the Amazon River Basin (ARB) has been in a state of exceptional drought, driven by low rainfall and consistently high temperatures for the entire year 2023 across the basin, SİA informs referring to the World Weather Attribution.

The river basin contains the largest rainforest in the world, making it a global hotspot of biodiversity and a key part of the global hydrological and carbon cycle. The river levels are reported to be at lowest levels in 120 years, threatening the estimated 30 million people living in the Amazon basin across several nations including Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, by disrupting transportation, isolating communities and killing wildlife.

The large riverine system powers significant portions of the affected countries’ energy through hydropower, with Brazil relying on hydro power for 80% of its electricity, Colombia 79%, Venezuela 68%, Ecuador and Peru 55%, and Bolivia 32%. The drought is significantly impacting dam capacities and energy output and led to power cuts in the region as early as June 2023.

Scientists from Brazil, the Netherlands, the UK and the US used published peer-reviewed methods to assess whether and to what extent the drought has been influenced by climate change as well as the occurrence of El Niño, which is known to be associated with drought in the Amazon. While the drought started earlier in the west of the basin, the whole basin has been in severe or exceptional drought for the second half of the year.

"In order to assess whether and to what extent human-induced climate change was a driver of this drought we combine observations-based data products and climate models and look at the 6 month meteorological (SPI6) drought as well as agricultural drought (SPEI6). We find that the likelihood of the meteorological drought occurring has increased by a factor of 10, while the agricultural drought has become about 30 times more like," the researchers said.

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