Amazon put in jeopardy by clean air
by David Masters
June 4, 2008
A team of scientists from the UK and Brazil have made a startling discovery: the Amazon rainforest is in jeopardy and is likely to become a grassland savannah by the end of the century.
Even more startling is the reason behind the Amazon’s impending doom: cleaner air.
The study, published in the journal ‘Nature’, and based on a joint research effort by scientists from Exeter University, the Met Office and the Brazilian National Institute for Space Studies, highlights a correlation between falling levels of sulphur dioxide emissions and rising temperatures in the tropical north Atlantic.
According to the study, sulphur pollution from coal burnt in the 1970s and 80s helped to limit global warming because the pollution particles reflected sunlight.
Now that much less coal is being burnt, the Atlantic ocean is warming up, causing tropical rainfall to move northwards.
This increases the risk of drought in the Amazon rainforest.
The study estimates that by 2025 there could be a drought every two years in the Amazon basin. By 2060 this will have gone up to a drought every nine out of ten years, turning the tropical rainforest into sun-scorched savannah grassland.
If the Amazon were to dry up, there would be serious implications for the climate across the globe.
The Amazon rainforst recycles most of the rain that falls upon it, and contains one tenth of the carbon stored in land ecosystems.
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