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No, Climate Change Is Not Turning the Amazon into a Savannah

October 18, 2020

By Paul Homewood



Another climate lie exposed!


Among the top Google News search results today for “climate change” is an article by the UK Guardian claiming climate change is drying out the Amazon rainforest and pushing it to a “tipping point,” after which it will irreversibly become a grassland savannah. In reality, objective data show rainfall is increasing in the Amazon rainforest as the word modestly warms, making the rainforest less likely to become savannah.

The Guardian article, titled “Amazon near tipping point of switching from rainforest to savannah — study,” asserts:

Rainforests are highly sensitive to changes in rainfall and moisture levels, and fires and prolonged droughts can result in areas losing trees and shifting to a savannah-like mix of woodland and grassland. In the Amazon, such changes were known to be possible but thought to be many decades away

New research shows that this tipping point could be much closer than previously thought. As much as 40% of the existing Amazon rainforest is now at a point where it could exist as a savannah instead of as rainforest, according to a study published in the journal Nature Communications.

The Nature Communications study asserts that tropical regions with sufficient rainfall become and remain rainforests. Tropical regions with substantially less rainfall become and remain savannah. In between those two rainfall levels, tropical regions will sustain whichever type of ecosystem – rainforest or savannah – that preexists.

The Nature Communications study applies dubious predictions of declining Amazon rainfall to claim the Amazon may begin turning to savannah within decades. Fortunately, scientists have access to actual rainfall data that are more authoritative than speculative models that depend on dubious assumptions. The real-world data show Amazonian rainfall is increasing rather than declining as the Earth continues its modest warming.

In 2018, scientists published a study in the peer-reviewed Environmental Research Letters, examining rainfall trends in the Amazon. Looking specifically at rainfall during the Amazon’s wet season, the researchers reported, “tropical Amazonian precipitation has significantly increased by∼180 to 600 mm(in different datasets)in the wet season during the satellite era from 1979 to 2015.”

Importantly, the scientists determined warming temperatures were the catalyst for more rainfall. “Results show that the multidecadal warming of the tropical Atlantic has contributed more than half of this precipitation change over the past three decades….”

To be sure, there are many pressures on the Amazon rainforest, including deliberate deforestation to enable more farms and agriculture. The clear, objective data, however, show climate change is strengthening the Amazon rainforest against such pressures.

  1. Gerry, England permalink
    October 18, 2020 11:19 am

    As if the Guardian would have an article on climate that actually told the truth.

    They are also peddling the Exxon Knew lie promoted by climate activist Naomi Oreskes and being used to instigate litigation in many US states against them. WUWT posts on the actual document from 1982 which provides information on the growing idea of CO2 driven global warming. It is actually quite good in that it says there is unlikely to be anything to worry about until the end of this century.

    • October 19, 2020 11:16 am

      an article by the UK Guardian claiming climate change is…

      Just another day at climate hype HQ.

  2. Ben Vorlich permalink
    October 18, 2020 11:43 am

    Isn’t there evidence for savanna in the area now forested in the not too distant past?

    • October 18, 2020 12:08 pm

      Savannahs are not necessarily a result of dryness. In North Carolina, the savannah formation is found in the “Carolina bays” where there is plenty of moisture and the trees are bald cypress. Frequent fire is the element which keeps the areas savannah.

      In fact, a number of the larger bays which are under state/federal control have prescribed burning in the maintenance schedule. If natural fires have not occurred within a certain time period, burns are done at the appropriate time of year in order to maintain the savannah.

      Perhaps that area of the Amazon has a conveniently ignored burn history????

    • mwhite permalink
      October 18, 2020 2:13 pm

      The last glacial maximum

  3. gjhardy permalink
    October 18, 2020 11:56 am

    Whenever anyone uses the words “tipping point” you know that they are on the emotive side of the discussion and nowhere near reality.

    • Barbara permalink
      October 18, 2020 2:08 pm

      Monty Don in today’s Telegraph in his attempts to bring back the wolf to keep down the deer: “We are at a tipping point – it’s never a catastrophic event, it’s a small accumulation of adverse circumstances and then you get to the final straw that breaks the camel’s back.“

    • pardonmeforbreathing permalink
      October 18, 2020 11:09 pm

      Thank you for bringing up this particular weasel word so I do not have to! Have you noticed how limited the language of the climate doomists is and how they keep having to recycle pseudo scientific terms regardless of the irrelevance of them to context? To me that indicates how little of what we read comes directly from any scientist worth their salt and how much is jazzed up for public consumption by the political commissars using the officially approved language of shock and awe. Shellenberger admitted as much in his recent revelations, something the dodgy AlGoreithm alluded to also after the last IPCC report. They see sexing up scientific input as justified in the name of the cause. You can be sure that there is a dictionary ( a very limited one) that the propaganda arm of the provisional climate doom mongers have created, thinking if they use those words it will strike fear into the hearts of the masses just like a cattle prod.

      • John189 permalink
        October 19, 2020 10:44 am

        Spot on. Remember how the Guardian et al made a formal decision to replace “global warming” with “global heating”.

  4. Broadlands permalink
    October 18, 2020 1:13 pm

    …speculative models that depend on dubious assumptions….

    Isn’t that what the global warming part of climate change is all about? Dire predictions from models.

    • Devoncamel permalink
      October 18, 2020 1:23 pm

      You might add that the models are rooted from ideology.

  5. dennisambler permalink
    October 18, 2020 2:12 pm

    Professor Philip Stott, Emeritus Professor of BioGeography at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, wrote this in 2003:

    “At the end of the last ice age, only some 12-18000 years ago, the tropics were covered by seasonal savannah grasslands, cooler and much drier than now. There were no rain forests in the Malay Peninsula and much of Amazonia, and, despite the increasing human development of forested space, there are still more rain forests persisting than existed then. As in Europe and North America, the forests came and went as climate changed; there is no Clementsian “long period of control” under one climate. Beneath many rain forests, there are sheets of ash, a testimony in the soil to past fires and non-forested landscapes.”

    “Brazil: Ancient Amazon Actually Highly Urbanized” August 31st 2008

    “The report in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, describes clusters of towns and smaller villages that were connected by complex road networks and were arranged around large central plazas. Researches also discovered signs of farming, wetland management and fish farms in the ancient settlements that are now almost completely covered by rainforest.”

    “Stone age etchings found in Amazon basin as river levels fall”: 10 November 2010 Guardian
    “Archaeologists who have studied the photographs believe the art – which features images of faces and snakes – is another indication that thousands of years ago the Amazon was already home to large civilisations.

    “Eduardo Neves, president of the Brazilian Society of Archaeology and a leading Amazon scholar, said the etchings appeared to have been made between 3,000 and 7,000 years ago when water levels in the region were lower. The etchings were “further, undeniable evidence” that the region had been occupied by a significant number of ancient settlements and people.””

    SOUTH AMERICA DURING THE LAST 150,000 YEARS – Jonathan Adams, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    “In general, it would seem that 150-130,000 y.a. the continent showed the general glacial-age pattern of colder and more arid conditions. After about 130,000 y.a., climate warmed and moistened and the forests reached a similar area to the present. After 115,000 y.a., cold and aridity began to influence the vegetation, to an arid, cool maximum around 70,000 y.a., followed by erratic but generally fairly cool and drier-than-present conditions throughout the continent. A second cold, arid maximum began around 22,000 years ago and lasted until about 14,000 14C y.a., after which rainfall and temperatures increased and the forests returned over several thousand years.”

    • pardonmeforbreathing permalink
      October 18, 2020 11:21 pm

      Thank you for that wonderful outline of what I look for in my job…. albeit looking a bit further back in time. Warmer means wetter therefore more transportation of sediment and colder meant drier. and consequently less..even back in the late Triassic which is my focus right now. Cold means narrower climatic belts, warmer means broader ones. What is there not to like about that? I could wax lyrical also about the gas of life, CO2 and how empirical data based geological history supported by equally empirical physics refutes every claim being made by the zealots demonizing CO2 but hey what do I know, I am not a smug and annoying actor, or a bloated failed politician or an increasingly irritating soon to be an adult dressing like she is 12 from Sweden.

  6. Gamecock permalink
    October 18, 2020 2:22 pm

    What’s wrong with savanna?

    Are they undertaking planting trees in existing savannas to “fix” them?

    This is habitatism. Humans making judgements as to which habitats are “better.”

  7. Tim Spence permalink
    October 18, 2020 3:21 pm

    I’ve been to the Amazon a few times and the conclusion I reached on the first expedition was that the the vegetation won, the animals lost. And although humans are capable of turning jungle into savannah, leave it two years and the jungle reclaims the savannah.

    If anyone doubts this they should read the story of Percy Farquhar who built a railroad there, Bolivia to Brazil, 230 miles of it. To cut a long story short, it was abandoned for a few years and when they returned they couldn’t find it. They went back and checked where it should be and returned to find it under 3 feet of leaf litter. They then found an abandoned steam train, it had a 30ft. tall tree growing out of its chimney.

    6,000 workers died in the original construction.

    What’s happening now is that farmers are picking away at the outskirts of the jungle and realising it’s a Sisyphus scale task.

  8. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    October 18, 2020 4:59 pm

    About 25 years ago one of the film companies (films about places and ecosystems) had an hour long report on that part of Amazonia that is seasonally flooded. [too long ago, and too many ‘Amaz…’ unrelated things now; so can’t find on web]

    The Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)
    (ITCZ image here) is far south in March. Months later it will have shifted far to the north; eastern Venezuela. See Orinoco River, supplying the river of this name – 4th in discharge of the world.

    Massive rainfall throughout the Amazon Basin, including over the Andes Mtns. to the west, causes flooding on the low topography of the Brazilian basin. The result is a months long inland sea. Plants, animals, and people adjust as needed to the rising and falling flood.

    This map vegetation zones, shows the Basin in green, and other habitats in stripes, dots, and colors.
    These zones have multiple controlling factors (think geography) and a slight change in temperature is not going to displace much, except at the edges.

  9. David permalink
    October 18, 2020 5:00 pm

    We do a lot of country walking and don’t fancy the possibility of being attacked by wild wolves. Surely we could cull the deer population by organising deer shoots just as we do for pheasants and boosting our tourist trade together with having more venison on supermarket shelves.

    • Paul H permalink
      October 19, 2020 8:36 pm

      Wolves don’t attack people. They’ve had a bad press over the years, unjustifiably so. I’d personally love a wolf.

    • Russ Wood permalink
      October 21, 2020 2:48 pm

      Wolves? As long as it’s still legal for shepherds to shoot them, otherwise English lamb (and mutton) will be off the menu. Why do these ‘environmentalists’ think that most of Europe got rid of its carnivores many centuries ago?

  10. Phoenix44 permalink
    October 19, 2020 8:00 am

    “As much as…” “‘at a point where it could”…

    This is not science, it’s just somebody on a computer.

  11. C Lynch permalink
    October 19, 2020 2:06 pm

    Sad to see what was once a great newspaper reduced to a Marxist propaganda rag.

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