Shocking photos shared on social media show the extent of a severe drought plaguing the Amazon.
The Rio Negro in Brazil is suffering from low water levels as El Niño grips the region. The climate phenomenon is known for causing warm water in the tropical Pacific Ocean west of South America, but the impacts have been exacerbated by climate change—resulting in low water levels restricting the transport of supplies and marine wildlife being killed.
On Friday, social media user @sergiofreire shared two photos of the Rio Negro—one from July and another from early October. The difference between the two was drastic.
The top photo in the post was the most recent and shows a dry, muddy riverbed. The bottom photo, taken in July, shows a beautiful blow river flowing through a lush landscape. The original post had been viewed more than 4.3 million times.
Since mid-September, the Rio Negro has fallen by about a foot a day, according to the Port of Manaus website. Drought has drastically depleted the river water levels, which is a massive tributary to the Amazon River.
Newsweek reached out to the Port of Manaus via email for comment.
In a follow-up post, @sergiofreire posted a map of the river and noted that the pictures were specifically of Igarapé Tumbira, a branch of the Rio Negro.
The vastly different river landscape has turned fatal, killing hundreds of fish and also dozens of river dolphins as the marine animals struggle to survive in warming waters.
Some responses to the social media post argued that parts of the river dry up annually. However, government officials have stated that the drought is the result of El Niño and has been exacerbated by climate change.
El Niño is one of two climate patterns that greatly impact Earth’s weather. La Niña recently culminated in the spring, ending a multiyear period in which the pattern influenced the weather. El Niño started in June, and a recent update from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it has high odds of being historically strong.
El Niño is known to bring higher-than-average precipitation to the southern portion of the United States, but it has the opposite effect for Brazil.
“For northern Brazil where the river is, El Niño tends to lead to drier, warmer than normal conditions going through their spring and into their summer,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Jason Nicholls previously told Newsweek.
Nicholls added that relief is not likely for the region until March or April, when cooler weather arrives in the area and when El Niño starts to weaken.
Until rain arrives, Brazil’s government is working to assuage some of the most severe impacts. Government officials appointed a task force to provide support to people living in the area. The drought has already impacted 111,000 people and could impact up to 500,000 if the drought continues.
Last week, Brazil’s government announced that it would provide emergency assistance to people living in the area who had been impacted by the severe drought. Thousands of people rely on Amazonian rivers like the Rio Negro as their life support.