South America: Large pocket of intense water deficit to persist in Brazil

26 June 2018

The 12-month forecast through February 2019 indicates significant water deficits in large pockets across northern Brazil. Deficits may be exceptional in the states of Amapá, Pará, Maranhão, Amazonas, and Acre.

Significant deficits are also forecast for Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and Venezuela, and in south-central Bolivia beginning near Cochabamba, northern Chile, the Gulf of Corcovado in southern Chile, and Tierra del Fuego.

Surpluses are expected in Huánuco Region of central Peru; Peru’s border with Bolivia and well into central Bolivia; Brazil’s easternmost tip (Rio Grande do Norte); and in Patagonia surrounding O’Higgins/San Martín Lake and to the east in Argentina.

The 3-month maps (below) for the same 12-month period show the evolving conditions in greater detail.

Though the extent of exceptional deficit is forecast to diminish in South America over the next several months, large pockets of intense deficit are forecast for Brazil in Acre, Rondônia, Pará, Tocantins, Goiás, western Minas Gerais, northern Mato Grosso do Sul, and São Paolo. Deficits are also expected to be intense along many rivers.

Intense deficits are also forecast for: Venezuela east of Lake Maracaibo and near the border with Guyana; southwestern Ecuador; southern Bolivia; the Paraguay River; along a path beginning south of Lima, Peru, through northern Chile; near the Gulf of Corcovado in southern Chile and eastward along the Río Chubut into Argentina; and Tierra del Fuego. Deficits in Santiago Chile will downgrade slightly from exceptional to extreme, with severe deficits in the surrounding region. Deficits in Argentina will moderate and some surpluses are expected to emerge in northern Buenos Aires Province and along parts of the Río Salado in northwestern Argentina.

Intense surpluses will persist in Peru’s Huánuco Region, and moderate to exceptional surpluses along the border with Bolivia leading into central Bolivia. Surpluses are also forecast for: northern Guyana into Venezuela; Vichada in eastern Colombia; Salta Province in northwestern Argentina and Neuquén Province in the south; surrounding O’Higgins/ San Martín Lake in Patagonia; and along the Río Santa Cruz in Patagonia.

From September through November deficits will diminish in Brazil’s southern two-thirds, with conditions becoming moderate or even normal. In the northern states, however, severe to exceptional deficits are forecast. Likewise, deficits will be intense in Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Primarily moderate deficits are forecast for Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia’s southern half. In Chile, severe to exceptional deficits are forecast in the north, with moderate deficits south of Santiago. In northern Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, conditions will transition from surplus to near-normal but moderate surpluses will emerge farther north in Santa Fe and Entre Ríos Provinces, and in central Paraguay along the Río Paraguay.

In the final quarter – December through February – severe deficits are forecast for Brazil’s northern half and neighboring countries to the north, and also in Chile. Primarily moderate surpluses are expected to emerge across central Argentina, central Paraguay, Ecuador, and the Río Cauca in western Colombia.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

Drought in the Argentine Pampas is setting up neighboring Paraguay to top Argentina in soybean exports for the first time. The Paraguay government aims to double current production by 2028 by increasing cultivation of drought-tolerant soy varieties in the arid western region of Chaco. Drought-related losses in Argentine soy production are estimated at USD $3.4 billion, and for the first time in over 20 years, the country is looking to import soybeans from the United States to sustain its crushing industry, which produces soy meal and oil.

With Argentine production dampened and trade relations between China and the US fraught with tension, China is turning to Brazil to satisfy its demand for soy, contributing to Brazil’s record soybean export outlook for this year.

Increasing temperatures and erratic rainfall in the Andean Plateau have made outdoor farming untenable for some Bolivian subsistence farmers. Returning to a low-tech solution introduced 25 years ago, some are building Walipinis, or underground greenhouses, which provide a controlled micro-climate. The ivy-covered brick enclosures are a relatively simple way to increase food security.

Drought in Chile in 2014-2015 and last year’s heavy rains in Peru, combined with soaring global demand, have driven the price of avocados so high that organized armed bandits are robbing growers in Chile. This year 10 bands of thieves were dismantled and 50 people charged with theft. The country has newly appointed its first avocado-centered prosecutor to deal with the issue, which is driving some farmers to switch to growing citrus.

There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers.

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Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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