Heat and drought led to the largest recorded spike in carbon levels

Kevin Frayer

Kevin Frayer

"These three tropical regions released 2.5 gigatonnes (a billion tonnes) more carbon into the atmosphere than they did in 2011".

These increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide were 50 percent larger than the average increase seen in recent years. These measurements are consistent with those made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The highest rates of atmospheric Carbon dioxide in 2,000 years stemmed from one of the most intense El Nino events on record, according to research published in the October 12 issue of Science.

Using OCO-2 data, Liu's team analyzed how Earth's land areas contributed to the record atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increases. 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. In South America, there was severe drought and hotter than normal temperatures because of the weather phenomenon.

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The scientists have used carbon dioxide data from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite (GOSAT) and compared the 2015 findings to those from the reference year 2011.

In Africa, hotter-than-normal temperatures led to faster decomposition of dead trees and plants, releasing more carbon into the atmosphere.

NASA launched OCO-2 on July 2, 2014, after the failure of the first OCO satellite.

For instance, in South America, 2015 was the driest year in decades. These conditions led to a lower level of photosynthesis, as trees and plants absorbed less carbon.

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In this issue, a collection of Research Articles presents the initial results from OCO-2, covering the detection of Carbon dioxide emissions from specific point sources; measurements of Carbon dioxide variations associated with El Niño, on land and at sea; and solar-induced fluorescence measurements of photosynthesis for determining gross primary production by plants. Meanwhile, tropical Asia had the second-driest year in the past 30 years. Indonesia also saw a dry year; its carbon spike was due to both peat and forest fires.

"We knew El Niños were one factor in these variations, but until now we didn't understand, at the scale of these regions, what the most important processes were", added Eldering. "OCO-2's geographic coverage and data density are allowing us to study each region separately". The journal Science published five papers on Thursday based on the study of climate change on Earth, conducted by NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), according to a report by #Los Angeles Times.

The satellite's mission is to examine how carbon dioxide moves across the Earth and how it changes over time. And some computer simulations say the frequency of El Nino will increase in the future with climate change, Denning said during a NASA press conference. These changes have disturbed the Globe Carbon Cycle.

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