Since the Amazon River and surrounding rainforest is close to the Equator, it is always hot, humid, and wet. Temperatures in the Amazon rainforest don't change very much. All year long, the Amazon basin generally stays between 68 - 93 degrees F. Think about how the temperature where you lives differs. What is the temperature like in winter compared to summer? How is April's average temperature different than November's?
During the rainy season our campsite would be under water.
Tropical areas, such as the Amazon Rainforest, don't have seasons like spring, summer, fall, and winter. Instead seasons in the rainforest are divided into the dry season and the wet season, each lasting about six months. In the tropical areas just south of the Equator, the wettest part of the wet season occurs between December and May. During the wet season, the Amazon Rainforest receives 6 - 12 feet or more of rain! Measure out 12 feet in your classroom and imagine having that much rain.
On the other hand, during the dry season, the Amazon receives very little rainfall. From June through August, the Amazon Rainforest receives only an average of 6 inches of rain. Now measure out six inches in your classroom and compare it to the 12 feet of rain you measured before. It's no wonder that people, plants, and animals have to adapt to very different conditions depending on the season.
The huge amount of rain that falls in the Amazon Rainforest during the rainy season can cause the Amazon River to rise and fall by nearly 40 feet. All of this water needs to go someplace, and it spreads out and floods much of the forest. Fortunately, the trees, plants, and animals in the Amazon Rainforest have learned to adapt to the flooding.
During this expedition, we are traveling during the dry season. We have never traveled in the Amazon during the dry season before. The river is much smaller and more narrow than we are used to seeing. The forest is dry, rather than flooded. And the river banks are sandy or muddy.
How do humans impact the seasonal changes of the Amazon?
Unfortunately, some humans have been clearing the rainforest for cattle farming, agriculture, and logging. The rainforest is disappearing at alarming rates to make way for people and food production.
Believe it or not, all of this deforestation is changing the Amazon's climate and seasonal cycles. During the dry season, deforested areas get hotter than untouched sections of rainforest. When the warm air rises, clouds form. When clouds form, rain falls. But, during the dry season, it's not supposed to rain, right? What do you think would happen if the dry season suddenly became wet?
The Amazon's seasons are changing because of global warming.
Warmer, wetter conditions have made it difficult for some plant and animal species to survive. Animals that live in the water need to have a specific water temperature to grow, reproduce, and travel. If the water temperature rises, animals have to move to cooler water or face extinction. And since all animals in the rainforest are connected to each other, the loss of a species could hurt other animals who depend on it for food.
However, the changes taking place in the Amazon aren't only affecting animals and plants. Changing climate affects people too. The entire globe relies on tropical rainforests to absorb carbon dioxide from the air. The trees of the rainforest breathe in the carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, which all humans need to breathe. In fact, the Amazon Rainforest produces over 20% of the Earth's oxygen supply. By absorbing carbon dioxide and giving us clean air to breathe, tropical rainforests keep the world's temperatures consistent and weather patterns normal.
Slash and burn deforestation is common along the river. However in Brazil, farmers are forced to preserve 70% of their land.
What happens if the tropical rainforests disappear? Without the tropical rainforests, temperatures would rise, weather patterns will change, and seasons might become unpredictable. All of these problems could mean big trouble for plants, animals, and humans.
Logging is actually not the main cause of deforestation. Clearing land for cattle is the main cause of the rainforest's deforestation in South America.
Fortunately, there are many ways that you can help slow down global warming and rainforest deforestation. By walking or riding a bike instead of driving, you're helping to prevent greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere (which cause the earth to warm up). Plus, walking, running, or riding a bike is a great way to get in shape and explore your community.
Also, use less electricity. Turn out lights when you're not in the room. Unplug devices that aren't being used, or better yet, turn off the television or computer and go outside! There's a whole world waiting to be discovered!
Facts about Amazon Deforestation: http://www.mongabay.com/brazil.html
How to help the Amazon Rainforest: http://rainforests.mongabay.com/1001.htm
Why Are Rainforests Important? http://kids.mongabay.com/
Amazon Basin Facts: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/Amazonia/Facts/basinfacts.cfm
What is your favorite part of the Trans-Amazon Expedition?