Sunday, October 02, 2016

Climate Change Worsens NE Brazil’s Drought

The drought affecting Brazil’s huge north-eastern region threatens to render it completely arid – and scientists say the warming climate is to blame.

Dying livestock, parched crops, and faltering hydropowe are now affecting north-east Brazil. (Credit: Wilson Dias/Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons) Click to Enlarge.
A recently published study suggests that the droughts which have traditionally affected Brazil´s semi-arid northeast are being worsened by the effects of climate change.

The region covers 18% of Brazil’s total area and is home to 53 million people, a quarter of the population of South America’s largest country.  With 34 inhabitants per square mile, it is the most densely populated semi-arid region in the world.    

Droughts have been recorded there since the earliest days of Portuguese colonization in the 16th century.   Many of Brazil’s leading painters and writers have portrayed the dramatic effects of the resultant famines in their works, like Candido Portinari’s 1944 portrayals  of drought refugees, Os retirantes, or Graciliano Ramos’ 1938 book, Vidas Secas (Barren Lives). 

More recently a federal assistance programme and the distribution of hundreds of thousands of water storage cisterns by government agencies and NGOs to rural families have helped to alleviate the effects and stop a rural exodus.

But climate scientists now warn that the droughts are getting worse and could lead to the desertification of the region, making it impossible to sustain agriculture.

The latest drought, which began in 2012 and has lasted five years, is the worst for over a century.
Writing in the journal Theoretical and Applied Climatology, José Antonio Marengo of the National Centre for Monitoring and Alerts of Natural Disasters and colleagues warn that “climate projections generated by the climate model suggest that from now on, more severe and prolonged droughts will be the rule, not the exception.” 

Their article, Drought in Northeast Brazil – Past, present and future, is based on research which used a tool jointly developed by Brazilian and British scientists, known as  PULSE – the Platform for Understanding the Long Term Sustainability of Ecosystems.

Marengo says: “Climate change will extract a heavy price from the northeast. Is it inevitable? Today there is only one certainty. In the future there will be longer and hotter drought periods.”

Read more at Climate Change Worsens NE Brazil’s Drought

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