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Roaring Video Shows Record Flood at Brazil’s Iguazu Falls

Heavy rains have inundated parts of southern Brazil and northern Argentina and Uruguay, driving severe flooding across the region. Video from Iguazu Falls, one of South America’s natural wonders, puts the scope of that flooding into perspective.


The falls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site that sits on the border of Brazil and Argentina. A video posted on Monday shows the river that feeds its cascade bursting over its banks and roaring over platforms normally reserved for tourists wanting to catch a glimpse of the natural wonder. The dangerous torrent led authorities to close access to the site until rates return closer to normal. Other parts of the park remain open, though.

The video hints at the true force of the raging river. Flow rates reached an astounding 1.5 million cubic feet per second on Monday according to Reactions, a reinsurance market magazine that monitors global catastrophes. That easily trumps the record of 1.27 million cubic meters per second in 1992. For comparison, Niagara Falls flows at a rate of roughly 100,000 cubic feet per second on average.

As with heavy rainfall events earlier this year in Pensacola, Fla., and the Balkans in Europeno specific percent of this event can be directly attributed to climate change. However, it is in line with predictions that climate change is likely to make intense rain events more common. Those heavy rain events can in turn lead to more extreme flooding.

Aside from the stunning video, the rainfall stands out for another reason. This is usually the start of Brazil’s dry season, when rainfall becomes scarce. While the deluge has displaced nearly a half million people in the Brazilian state of Parana according to Reuters, it comes with a small silver lining: a slight uptick in the amount of water in the region’s parched reservoirs. Much of the country has been dealing with a major drought following a wet season that produced only sporadic rains. The drought has led to concerns of blackouts because of decreased hydropower generation and helped drive up coffee prices around the globe.

Things are expected to dry out for the rest of this week before another blast of rain hits southern Brazil again this weekend. That could lead to a surprisingly soggy World Cup matchup between Iran and Nigeria on June 16 in Curitiba, the first of four games the city will host for the event.

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By Dave (Basking Ridge, NJ 07920)
on June 12th, 2014

“That easily trumps the record of 1.27 million cubic meters per second in 1992.” …was instead clearly meant to be cubic feet.  kcfs (thousand cubic feet per sec) is another US unit sometimes used for river volume flows. So for instance 43,000 cubic meters per second would then be 1,519 kcfs.  A good chunk of Niagara’s flow is diverted for hydro and the falls flow is artificially maintained at a level that still keeps the tourists coming.  Another comparison might be the Mississippi River with an average flow rate of around 600 kcfs.

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By Greg Jalbert
on June 13th, 2014

Here’s a higher-resolution video of the same situation:

That must be an immense amount of soil washing down the river. I think it will have some profound effects on the ecosystems on both ends of the flow, at least on some time scale. It must be intensely difficult to be a fish or dolphin or other river creature in that situation.

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