Another El Nino problem: More carbon dioxide in air

El Nino has contributed to higher Carbon Dioxide levels

El Nino has contributed to higher Carbon Dioxide levels

Readings from NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 have confirmed that the El Niño weather pattern of 2015-2016 was behind the biggest annual increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in millennia.

The OCO-2 satellite, launched in 2014, is created to provide a detailed picture of how carbon is exchanged between air, land and sea. The satellite can also measure solar-induced fluorescence, a proxy for photosynthesis, which provides valuable information about the biological processes that affect atmospheric CO2. With its impressive collection of observational capabilities, OCO-2 will enable measurements of atmospheric Carbon dioxide to be made with sufficient precision, resolution, and coverage to faithfully characterize its sources and sinks globally over the seasonal cycle, a long-standing goal in atmospheric and climate science.

This cycle, coupled with the continual emissions from fossil fuel burning over China, Europe and the southeast United States, means carbon levels reach a seasonal high in April in the northern hemisphere, it said. The El Nino made it more hard for plants to suck up man-made carbon emissions and sparked fires that released more carbon into the atmosphere.

And in 2015, El Nino "caused the emission of about 2.5 billion tonnes more carbon in the atmosphere than in 2011", during his previous appearance that can last for several years.

As the world warms, the tropics could add to carbon to the atmosphere in the future instead of taking it out of the air and wildfire emissions are likely to get more severe, Overpeck said.

According to the researchers, this change is mainly explained by a decrease of precipitation in South America and an increase in temperatures in Africa, a phenomenon that is expected to worsen by the end of the century with global warming.

The El Nino in 2015-16 impacted the amount of carbon dioxide that Earth's tropical regions released into the atmosphere, leading to a recent record spike in atmospheric CO2.

In tropical Asia, the seasonal increase in Carbon dioxide emissions is explained mostly by the combustion of bio-mass.

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