A new report by World Weather Attribution (WWA) reveals that climate change is the primary cause of a 30-fold increase in the Amazon basin drought in 2023, overshadowing the effects of El Niño. This groundbreaking study, conducted by an international team of climate scientists, analyzed weather data, drought indices, and statistical models from June to December, highlighting the profound impact of global warming on the region.
The research indicates that while El Niño contributed to reduced rainfall, the escalating global temperatures, currently 1.2°C above preindustrial levels, played a more significant role in the Amazon basin drought by increasing water evaporation from the soil and vegetation. This led to an “agricultural drought,” making such extreme conditions 30 times more likely due to the effects of climate change.
The year 2023, marked as the hottest on record, experienced longer and more intense dry seasons, with the North Atlantic’s warmth keeping rain clouds at bay and heatwaves igniting record wildfires. These factors, all attributed to climate change, have exacerbated the Amazon’s drought, making it stronger and more widespread.
The WWA report warns that if global temperatures rise beyond 2°C, the Amazon could face severe droughts every 10-15 years, emphasizing the critical need to curb fossil fuel use and halt deforestation. The drought has direly impacted over 30 million people living in the Amazon basin, affecting Indigenous, rural, and river communities reliant on the rivers for essential services.
Experts like Patricia Pinho from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute stress the urgency of adapting to these changing conditions to mitigate the impact on vulnerable communities. Moreover, scientists like Julia Tavares are concerned about the drought’s long-term effects on the forest’s ecology, particularly tree mortality, which could exacerbate climate change by releasing stored carbon.
The recent findings highlighting the critical role of climate change in the intensification of the Amazon basin drought serve as a sobering call to action. It vividly illustrates how global warming is not just a distant threat but a present and potent force exacerbating regional environmental crises. The Amazon often called the “lungs of the Earth,” is now at the forefront of climate vulnerability, facing an alarming increase in drought severity that threatens its diverse ecosystems, indigenous communities, and vast biodiversity.
This situation underscores the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to mitigate climate change impacts and safeguard the Amazon. Protecting this vital region requires global cooperation and decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, halt deforestation, and implement sustainable management practices. The fate of the Amazon and its inhabitants hangs in the balance, making it imperative for the international community to respond with measures that match the scale of the threat. This report is not just a wake-up call but a roadmap pointing towards the critical interventions needed to preserve the Amazon and, by extension, the health of our planet.