A drought is disrupting transit in the Panama Canal

As shown in Figure 1, Gatun Lake is a key component of the Panama Canal.

Figure 1

However, as shown in Figure 2, the water level in Gatun Lake is at a historically low level.

Figure 2. Source: @piie on Bluesky.

In fact, this is the lowest level measured since 1965. The cause is a significant drought in the Amazon, a drought exacerbated by deforestation.

The low water level has forced the Panama Canal Authority to reduce daily transit from 36 ships to 24, as well as the maximum allowable draft (the draft is the β€œdepth” at which a boat’s hull can sink into the water). These restrictions have a negative impact on several sectors.

Because of historically low water levels at Gatun Lake, the Panama Canal Authority has reduced daily traffic from 36 to 24 vessels & limited allowable draft size, affecting energy product carriers, container vessels, & ships transporting grain from the US.

β€” @piie sur Bluesky

This kind of disruption will become increasingly frequent as the effects of climate change manifest. The Panama Canal, like many other infrastructures, was designed for a different climate than the one that we are heading into.