Turning the Amazon into a desert: global warming a suspect
The worst drought in more than 40 years is damaging the world's biggest rainforest, plaguing the Amazon basin with wildfires, sickening river dwellers with tainted drinking water, and killing fish by the millions as streams dry up.
Nearby, scores of piranhas shook in spasms in two inches of water -- what was left of the once flowing Parana de Manaquiri river, an Amazon tributary. Thousands of rotting fish lined the its dry banks.
The governor of Amazonas, a state the size of Alaska, has declared 16 municipalities in crisis as the two-month-long drought strands river dwellers who cannot find food or sell crops.
Some scientists blame higher ocean temperatures stemming from global warming, which have also been linked to a recent string of unusually deadly hurricanes in the United States and Central America.
Rising air in the north Atlantic, which fuels storms, may have caused air above the Amazon to descend and prevented cloud formations and rainfall, according to some scientists.
"If the warming of the north Atlantic is the smoking gun, it really shows how the world is changing," said Dan Nepstadt, an ecologist from the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Research Institute, funded by the U.S. government and private grants.