On the other hand, climate change is also increasing the frequency of severe droughts. So I calculated the experts in a study of regional droughts from 2015 to 2019This dry phase has become about four times more likely due to climate change. In the long term, climate change is likely to make Panama drier. The models indicate an overall decrease in precipitation in the interior, especially in the rainy season.
Inflation rather than sensation
And not only is there less rainfall, but climate change is causing problems for the canal. Another important factor is high temperatures. According to the World Weather Organization (WMO), average temperatures in Central America have risen by about one degree – and the warmer they get, the more water evaporates from the surface of Lake Gatun’s 470 square kilometers.
Adding to these long-standing problems is the El Niño phenomenon this year. In El Niño years, Panama’s dry season begins earlier than usualWhich leaves less water to fill Gatun Lake. Meanwhile, warm waters in the equatorial Pacific are warming the air over Central America, leading to increased evaporation. Experts expect that next year will be completely dry due to the El Niño phenomenon.
Of course, this alone does not mean that the Panama Canal will dry up. But water-saving measures have notable consequences for shipping. About ten percent fewer ships are currently allowed through the canal, waiting up to three weeks to be able to enter the canal. In addition, particularly large container ships have to deliver part of their cargo and transport it to the other end of the canal by rail, which involves huge delays and costs.
The good news is that even in a worst-case scenario, the effects of the Panama Canal drought will be much less than after the Ever Given disaster. First, the Panama Canal is less important to global shipping than the Suez, and second, drought is unlikely to make the canal completely impassable. It may become uneconomic for large vessels to use the canal in the future – or the additional costs will be passed on to consumers. In June, for example, shipping company Hapag-Lloyd began charging an additional $500 for each container that had to pass through Panama. The drying up of the Canal follows a clear pattern in the many consequences of climate change: it brings inflation rather than sensation.
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