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Environment & Energy

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(59,545 posts)
Sun Sep 26, 2021, 09:50 AM Sep 2021

Drought Intensifying Across S. America; Farms Failing, Ski Slopes Closing, Parana River Drying Up [View all]

An aerial view of the drying bed of the Paraná River in August as the water reached a historic low near Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina. (JUAN MABROMATA/AFP via Getty Images)


From the frigid peaks of Patagonia to the tropical wetlands of Brazil, worsening droughts this year are slamming farmers, shutting down ski slopes, upending transit and spiking prices for everything from coffee to electricity. So low are levels of the Paraná running through Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina that some ranchers are herding cattle across dried-up riverbeds typically lined with cargo-toting barges. Raging wildfires in Paraguay have brought acrid smoke to the limits of the capital. Earlier this year, the rushing cascades of Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian-Argentine frontier reduced to a relative drip.

The droughts this year are extensions of multiyear water shortages, with causes that vary from country to country. Yet for much of the region, the droughts are moving up the calendar on climate change — offering a taste of the challenges ahead in securing an increasingly precious commodity: water. “It’s an escalating problem, and the fact that we’re seeing more and more of these events, and more extreme events, is not a coincidence,” said Lisa Viscidi, energy and climate expert with the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue. “It’s definitely because we’re seeing the effects of climate change.”


In Chile, a nation caught in the vortex of a 13-year drought, its longest and most severe in 1,000 years, a “blob” of warm water in the southwest Pacific the size of the continental United States is disturbing rain patterns, pushing storm tracks southward over the Drake Passage and Antarctica. Scientists say greenhouse gases have exacerbated the drying trend, putting Chile at the forefront of the region’s water crisis. “We are one of the regions of the globe where you can see that climate models coincide in their predictions, that by the end of the 21st century, we’ll have on average 30 percent less rainfall than today,” said Duncan Christie, a paleoclimatologist at the Austral University of Chile. “What we’re seeing today is as if the future has already arrived in central Chile.”

The Chilean government has declared an agricultural emergency in 8 of its 16 regions and is offering aid to stricken farmers. Agriculture Minister María Emilia Undurraga said some regions are registering rainfall losses of between 62 and 80 percent.

The Mataquito River in Maule, Chile, in February 2020. A drought has sent Chilean water levels plummeting as much as 57 percent over the last decade. (Tamara Merino/Bloomberg)

People walk along a dry arm of the Paraná River near Rosario, Argentina. (JUAN MABROMATA/AFP via Getty Images)+


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