BRASILIA, Brazil Burning of the Amazon jungle is changing weatherpatterns by raising temperatures and reducing rainfall, accelerating the rate atwhich the forest is disappearing and turning into grassland, scientists report.
Wide-scale burning by loggers and farmers of the Amazon has risen sharplyover the past two decades, changing the region’s cloud cover and reducing theamount of rain in some deforested areas that are turning into grassland orsavanna.
“All the models indicate the same thing: ‘savannization,”‘ PedroLeite Silva Dias of the University of Sao Paulo said at a conference on researchon Amazon deforestation.
Silva Dias said the worst-case scenario for the Amazon, a continuous tropicalforest larger than the continental United States, is that at current burning anddeforestation rates, 60 percent of the jungle will turn into savanna in the next50 to 100 years. The most likely outlook is that 20 to 30 percent will turn intosavanna, according to forecasting models.
Destruction of the Amazon, home to up to 30 percent of the globe’s animal andplant species, reached its second-highest level last year. An area of 5.9million acres , bigger than the state of New Jersey, was destroyed as loggersand farmers hacked and burned the forest in 2003.
About 85 percent of the Amazon is still standing.
The Amazon experts are presenting the latest findings of the Large ScaleBiosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia, the world’s largest experiment onjungle deforestation.
The experiment, which includes U.S. space agency NASA, has found increasingevidence that the Amazon is slowly getting drier due to burning, withunpredictable consequences for its survival and weather patterns.
The experiment has monitored the Amazon since 1998, using research towers anda unique satellite image system.
As the climate becomes drier and reduces the colossal amount of water vaporover the Amazon, the effects will spread internationally, the experts said.
“Clouds over the Amazon are not in their normal state. The repercussionsof this are going to be felt far away,” said Meinrat Andreae of Germany’sMax Planck Institute of Chemistry. “This leads to significant changes ofglobal (cloud) circulation.”
Experts have found that burning of the Amazon, accounts for 75 percent ofBrazil’s greenhouse gas emissions, making Brazil one of the world’s top 10polluters.
The scientists said the Amazon’s climate is already getting hotter due toglobal warming. Burning in the area itself is accelerating that process.