Environment

The Amazon-Congo Connection

By Anne CasselmanJun 5, 2005 5:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

Can two of the world’s mightiest rivers, 2,600 miles apart, share rainfall? MIT civil and environmental engineer Elfatih Eltahir studied readings from NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission and found that—statistically at least—there is a seesaw effect in rainfall between the Amazon and the Congo river basins. When there is a drought along the Congo, there are floods in the Amazon, and vice versa. “It looks somewhat obvious after you discover it,” Eltahir says, “but nobody looked at the [satellite] data before.”

The question now is, what does it mean? “At the moment it’s an interesting statistical relationship, but there’s still no predictability,” says Anne Waple, a research climatologist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Monitoring Branch. “It could even be that this is symptomatic of a larger process. It could be the effects of, rather than causes of, an oscillation.” Nonetheless, if scientists can figure out what causes the pattern, they may be able to warn of devastating floods or droughts. “We need to understand the mechanism,” Eltahir says. “How does this happen? What’s the global reach? What’s its global impact?”

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month
Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
1 free articleSubscribe
Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.