The atmosphere above the Amazon rainforest has been drying out since the last 20 years, a new study by NASA has revealed. This, in turn has spiked the demand for water and has left the ecosystems vulnerable to fires and drought. It also shows that this increase in dryness is primarily the result of human activities. NASA scientists have analysed decades of ground and satellite data over the Amazon rainforest to track both how much moisture was in the atmosphere and how much moisture was needed to maintain the rainforest system.
"We observed that in the last two decades, there has been a significant increase in dryness in the atmosphere as well as in the atmospheric demand for water above the rainforest," said JPL's Armineh Barkhordarian, lead author of the study.
"In comparing this trend to data from models that estimate climate variability over thousands of years, we determined that the change in atmospheric aridity is well beyond what would be expected from natural climate variability," he said.
The Amazon rainforest, also known in English as Amazonia or the Amazon Jungle, is a moist broadleaf tropical rainforest in the Amazon biome that covers most of the Amazon basin of South America.
This basin encompasses 7,000,000 km2 (2,700,000 sq mi), of which 5,500,000 km2 (2,100,000 sq mi) are covered by the rainforest. This region includes territory belonging to nine nations.
The majority of the forest is contained within Brazil, with 60 per cent of the rainforest, followed by Peru with 13 per cent, Colombia with 10 per cent and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
Four nations have "Amazonas" as the name of one of their first-level administrative regions and France uses the name "Guiana Amazonian Park" for its rainforest protected area.
The Amazon represents over half of the planet's remaining rainforests and comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world, with an estimated 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species.