Climate change: The Aral Sea, Chile wildfires and atmospheric rivers

Climate change is the reason for the disappearance of the Aral Sea in Central Asia, which the UN recognized as the most shocking disaster of the 20th century. Over several decades, one of the world’s largest inland bodies of water has shrunk to less than a quarter of its original size. This situation results from failed engineering and agricultural projects and climate change – summers are warmer and longer, winters are shorter and very cold. The inhabitants of a once prosperous region lose from the changes – without access to water and fish, fish factories have gone bankrupt, there is a lack of means of living, and the dunes are swallowing up former towns.

According to scientists, climate change increases the likelihood of heatwaves and droughts currently hitting South America and contributing to forest fires. Due to climate change, fire seasons are now, on average, 18.7% longer, and the likelihood of a stronger El Niño is increasing. Moreover, in the case of Chile, unusually heavy rains in 2023 resulted in the growth of underbrush, which is now fueling fires.

Climate change also increases the intensity of atmospheric rivers – extended, concentrated zones in the atmosphere that transport water vapour from the tropics to mid-latitudes. Atmospheric rivers can now carry and deliver approximately 5 to 15% more rainfall than in a world unaffected by climate change. An atmospheric river can hold up to 15 times more water than the Mississippi River.

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