Bailey Johnson /
The extent of the 2005 megadrought in the western Amazon rainforests during the summer months of June, July and August as measured by NASA satellites. The most impacted areas are shown in shades of red and yellow. / NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC
An area in the Amazon twice the size of California is experiencing what scientists call a “megadrought.” The prolonged drought, which began in 2005, has caused widespread damage to the area and may possibly be a sign that the rainforest is showing the first signs of large-scale degradation due to climate change.
A research team, led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, analyzed nearly a decade of satellite data over the Amazon. The team looked at rainfall measurements and the moisture content of the forest canopy.
The most striking data came from the summer of 2005, when 270,000 square miles of forest experienced a severe drought that caused widespread, observable damage to the canopy. The drought conditions were so severe that the rainforest was unable to fully recover before the next drought struck in 2010.
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