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Pilot documents Brazil 'flying rivers'

2012-09-18 12:46

Brasilia - As devastating drought spreads across much of the globe, British-born pilot Gerard Moss flies above the Amazon rainforest to show how its "flying rivers" - humid air currents - bring rain to Brazil and South America.

Aboard his single-engine Embraer 721 aircraft, Moss, a naturalised Brazilian, was on a 45-minute flight from Brasilia to Goiania, capital of the central state of Goias.

"Climate change is taking its toll. The United States is going through its worst drought in half a century, Russia is also reeling from drought and in India monsoon rains have for years been irregular," he said.

"Brazil is less affected because we have the world's biggest tropical forest, which helps regulate the climate."

Deforestation is also a factor. With logging and agriculture shrinking Brazil's rainforests, there are fewer trees to release the water vapour that creates these flying rivers.

Humidity

The flying rivers travel from the Amazon toward the Andes, which act as a natural barrier and redirect huge vapour masses toward the centre-west, southeast and south of Brazil as well as to the north of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname.

"Peru also receives some of that water, but were it not for the Cordillera, it would surely receive it all," Moss said.

During the Goiania-bound flight, Moss monitored an indicator that measures air humidity and helps locate the flying rivers.

"Very few people realise that apart from CO2 capturing, a single tree is capable of sending in the atmosphere more than 1 000l a day," he said.

"The entire Amazon basin is a supplier of fresh water for many other parts of Brazil and the northern parts of Argentina, so it is important for the climate and economy of Brazil," he added.

He has spent five years trying to spread the message that the Amazon rainforest not only cleans the planet's air but also guarantees humidity and rain in Brazil and part of South America, a huge food producing and exporting region.

Scientists believe nearly 20% of the Amazon has been destroyed and some fear a point of no return if destruction reaches 35% to 40%.

Large-scale deforestation has made Brazil one of the world's top greenhouse gas emitters, but the government has vowed to curb it and has made significant strides in the past decade.

Brazilian authorities confirmed earlier this year that deforestation fell to a record low of 6 418 km² in 2011, down from a peak of 27 000km² in 2004.