Back in February, we featured a post detailing how scientists think mass tree deaths in the Amazon rainforest caused by a 2010 drought mean the Amazon may be near a nasty tipping point. Now, NASA has released the above image showing the impact of that 2010 Amazon drought.
The severe drought of 2010 occurred between July and September in the Amazon Basin. NASA explains that the Negro River, which is a tributary of the Amazon, reached its lowest level in 109 years, since records began. Uncontrolled fires also occurred during the period of dryness.
Above: uncontrolled fires in the Amazon Basin during the 2010 drought.
The top image shows the greenness of the vegetation in the Amazon Basin over the period, compared to average conditions for the same period of the year during the proceeding 10 years.
The image is made with measurements from NASA’s Terra satellite. The vegetation indices are measurements of how much photosynthesis could be happening based on how much leafy vegetation the satellite views. The vegetation index is made by combining the visible and infrared red light the plants reflect back to space.
As a decline in rainforest cover can have a huge impact on the planet as a whole, scientists want to work out what happens to rainforests in dry conditions now, so it may be possible to predict what will happen as the climate changes. Rainforest droughts are already predicted to be more common as the impact of climate change continues to bite.
2010 Amazon drought ASA Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of Ranga Myneni, Boston University.
Amazon fires image: NASA image courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC.