Extreme floods on the rise in the Amazon: study

Extreme floods on the rise in the Amazon: study

Flooding in the center of Manaus, Amazonas state, Brazil in 2009. Image by Jochen Schöngart / National Institute for Amazon Research. While deepening droughts that have made headlines in recent years, extreme floods have been steadily increasing in frequency and severity in parts of the Amazon basin, putting lives and livelihoods at risk. According to a new study, longer and more extreme floods are becoming increasingly common due to a combination of fluctuations in atmospheric circulation systems and human-driven climate change. Publishing in the Journal Science Advances, Jonathan Barichivich at the Universidad Austral de Chile and colleagues collated daily water level records from the Port of Manaus on the Rio Negro from 1903 to 2015, and from Óbidos on the Amazon mainstem from 1970 to 2015. They found that the frequency of severe floods in both locales has increased steadily since 1970. Together these stations measure flow for the whole of the upstream Amazon. “In the whole 20th Century, there hasn’t been floods as severe or as frequent as in the last decade,” says Barichivich. Meanwhile, droughts have intensified in parts of the Amazon. An increase in intense flooding, alternating with deeper droughts, is a finding in keeping with current global climate change models. River records are useful windows into the dynamics of large regions, as their levels are influenced by the water levels in all tributaries upstream and downstream of the measurement site. They are also among the longest ecological records available. The team identified 14 severe droughts and…

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