South America: Intense water deficits forecast for NE Brazil

18 September 2019

THE BIG PICTURE
The 12-month forecast through May 2020 indicates water deficits of varying intensity covering the bulk of Brazil; from Venezuela through French Guiana; and along the Pacific Coast from central Peru reaching south through the Atacama Desert to the beginning of Chilean Patagonia. Deficits will be intense in Suriname, French Guiana, and nearby regions of northern Brazil; Tocantins, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, and Acre, Brazil; northern Venezuela; and from southern coastal Peru to Santiago, Chile.

Moderate to severe deficits are expected in southern Venezuela, with severe anomalies on the Caroni and Upper Orinoco Rivers. A pocket of intense deficit is forecast for southwestern Colombia, and moderate deficits are expected in central Peru.

Primarily moderate surpluses are forecast for central Paraguay and Argentina’s northern provinces of Formosa, Chaco, Corrientes, Santa Fe, Córdoba, and Entre Ríos, and in Uruguay. More intense surpluses are expected in northwestern Argentina in Catamarca and La Rioja Provinces.

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

The forecast through November indicates moderate to severe deficits in the western Amazon Basin of Brazil and extreme to exceptional deficits in the eastern portion of the Basin. Exceptional deficits are also forecast for eastern Pará into Maranhão, and Brazil’s easternmost states. Deficits will be intense in French Guiana, severe in Suriname, and moderate in Guyana. Exceptional deficits will persist in a narrow strip of northern Venezuela including Caracas; moderate to extreme deficits are expected in the south. Deficits of varying intensity are forecast for southern Colombia, pockets of Ecuador, and much of Peru. Deficits will be intense in northern Chile, and moderate to occasionally exceptional south of the Atacama Desert to the Biobío River.

Surpluses will shrink but persist in central Paraguay, many provinces in northern Argentina, and along the border of Peru and Bolivia. Surpluses are also expected in Uruguay. Anomalies will be intense in central Paraguay and northwestern Argentina.

From December 2019 through February 2020, deficits will shrink considerably across the continent, leaving near-normal conditions in many regions. However, deficits ranging from moderate to extreme are forecast for the Amazon Basin in Brazil along with a few exceptional pockets in southern Pará. Generally moderate deficits are expected in Suriname and French Guiana. And, intense deficits will persist in northern Chile. Surpluses will nearly disappear in Paraguay, shrink in northern Argentina and Uruguay, and emerge in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s southernmost state. Moderate surpluses are also forecast in pockets of western Colombia, Ecuador, and northern Peru.

In the final quarter – March through May 2020 – normal conditions are forecast for much of the continent, notably Brazil. Intense deficits will persist in northern Chile and moderate deficits in Suriname and French Guiana. Surpluses are forecast for Paraguay, pockets of northern Argentina, and Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

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

IMPACTS
Chile, set to host a global conference on climate change in December, is experiencing one of its driest years in six decades, according to the country’s agriculture minister. Despite strong international demand for Chilean fruit, Chile will not increase its planting area due to water limitations. Chile’s world-leading copper industry, too, is water-intensive, increasing the concern of Chilean officials over the current drought and climate change at large.

The government declared an agricultural emergency in the Region of Valparaiso that will last until re-evaluation at the end of December. Chile’s president announced the creation of a working group of government agencies, academics, and industry players. The government is already supplying water to 380,000 residents of the worst-hit areas.

U.S. imports of grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries from Chile fell 11-to-15 percent. From the Port of Valparaiso, the number of maritime shipments to the U.S. from January through June dropped by more than half year-over-year from 2018.

Wildfires in Bolivia have burned an area nearly the size of Lebanon this year, mostly in the southeastern zone of dry forest, farmland, and open prairies. The Bolivian government contracted the world’s largest firefighting tanker plane from the United States to help control the fires’ expansion in the face of hot, dry, and windy conditions. The area had been experiencing drought conditions prior to the blazes, prompting retrospective complaints from the Bolivian Friends of Nature Foundation that the government should have taken more precautions.

NOTE ON ADMINISTRATIVE BOUNDARIES
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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