July 22, 2009
Flooding is a seasonal occurrence in the Amazon, but flooding in May and June reached near-record levels, displacing thousands of people across the Brazilian Amazon. Water levels at a measuring station on the Rio Negro in Manaus, the Amazon's largest city, fell just short of the record set in 1953.
NASA's EO-1 satellite captured a photo of the flooding near Manaus on June 29. While water levels had receded from their peak, the picture showed a sharp contrast compared to an image of the same area captured in 2004.
NASA's Holli Riebeek writes,
The lower image shows the Amazon and Negro Rivers on June 7, 2004, a year when seasonal flooding was not as extreme. Tiny white flecks along the river are buildings. The Amazon is muddy brown in contrast to the clearer dark waters of the Negro River. The rainforest that lines the river is dark green, while cleared land is lighter in color.
In June 2009, the waters of the Amazon surrounded the villages that had stood on dry land in June 2004. The water seems to seep into the cleared land, filling what had been pale green angular shapes with murky brown water. It is quite likely that the flood actually extended across the entire land between the two rivers, but the dense forest canopy rises above the water, hiding the floods beneath. Only where the land has been cleared is the flood fully visible. The 2009 scene is slightly blurred by a thin layer of cloud.
Speaking on his weekly radio program in May, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said climate change could be responsible for the severe weather swings.
"Some things are changing in the world and we need to start looking at them with more attention," he was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
Lula recently committed Brazil to reducing its deforestation rate 70 percent by 2018 from a 1996-2005 baseline in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Globally deforestation accounts for roughly 18 percent of emissions, a share larger than all the world's cars, trucks, ships, and planes.
Ocean warming - not el Niño - drove severe Amazon drought in 2005 February 21, 2008
One of the worst droughts on record in the Amazon was caused by high temperatures in the Atlantic rather than el Niño, according to analyses of climatic and hydrological records. The research, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, suggests that human-driven warming is already affecting the climate of Earth's largest rainforest.