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Sci Adv. 2018 Sep 19;4(9):eaat8785. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aat8785. eCollection 2018 Sep.

Recent intensification of Amazon flooding extremes driven by strengthened Walker circulation.

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Instituto de Conservación, Biodiversidad y Territorio, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile.
Center for Climate and Resilience Research, Santiago, Chile.
School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.
Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, CEA CNRS UVSQ, Gif-sur-Yvette 91190, France.
Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Coordenação de Dinâmica Ambiental, Manaus, Brazil.
Instituto Geofísico del Perú (IGP), Subdirección de Ciencias de la Atmósfera e Hidrósfera (SCAH), Lima, Perú.


The Amazon basin is the largest watershed on Earth. Although the variability of the Amazon hydrological cycle has been increasing since the late 1990s, its underlying causes have remained elusive. We use water levels in the Amazon River to quantify changes in extreme events and then analyze their cause. Despite continuing research emphasis on droughts, the largest change over recent decades is a marked increase in very severe floods. Increased flooding is linked to a strengthening of the Walker circulation, resulting from strong tropical Atlantic warming and tropical Pacific cooling. Atlantic warming due to combined anthropogenic and natural factors has contributed to enhance the change in atmospheric circulation. Whether this anomalous increase in flooding will last depends on the evolution of the tropical inter-ocean temperature difference.

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