Spikes in carbon emissions detected with NASA satellite

Rodiano Bonacci
Ottobre 13, 2017

Specifically, the increase in carbon dioxide was due to the El Nino weather phenomenon, which scientists have long suspected.

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.

The NASA satellite showed that 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.

Study co-author Annmarie Eldering, NASA's deputy project scientist for the satellite, said the new results show how El Nino can counteract efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission was created to circumvent those limitations by providing a platform with which atmospheric CO2 can be measured spectrally from space over large geographic areas, thereby offering an unprecedented capability to study, in great detail, the processes that affect the concentration of the gas over a variety of spatial and temporal scales.

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. And in Indonesia, dry conditions led to increased fires, which also released more carbon.

In South America, drought stressed out vegetation so much that less carbon dioxide was converted through photosynthesis into oxygen, researchers reported today in the journal Science.

Oceans took out more than normal amount of carbon out of the atmosphere, but it wasn't enough to compensate for the land deficit, Eldering said. We must be able to predict how the Earth will behave in the face of climate change, and this study is an important part of that research.

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.

"In this sense, the 2015-16 El Nino is a glimpse of what is to come", Overpeck said in an email.

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