El Nino caused record Carbon dioxide spike in 2015-16

Cesar Mills
October 15, 2017

A new NASA satellite has found another thing to blame on El Nino: A recent record high increase of carbon dioxide in the air.

Normally about 25 percent of the human-caused carbon emissions are sucked up by plants on land, but during this powerful El Nino that was only 5 percent, said Junjie Liu, a NASA scientist and study lead author.

NASA presented new research findings with a teleconference on Oct 12 that featured Liu alongside Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.; Annmarie Eldering, the OCO-2 deputy project scientist at JPL; and Scott Denning, professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University.

This record rise in Carbon dioxide level occurred even though the amount of Carbon dioxide emission from human activities remained more or less similar before and after the El Nino. OCO-2 has been studying Earth's climate change for the past three years and collected lots of information about carbon emission and other toxic gases which caused the rise in global temperatures.

Data from NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, which was launched in 2014, provides more specifics on how that happens and by continent.

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In recent year, a surge in the level of carbon dioxide has been witness the average annual increase has been closer to two parts per million of carbon dioxide per year - or four gigatonnes of carbon.

Eldering's team said that combining all these studies together helps to understand the impact of various factors which contribute in the disturbance of global carbon cycle.

Eldering explained that OCO-2 takes about 100,000 direct and daily measurements of Carbon dioxide over the tropical forest regions of South America (like the Amazon rainforest), the tropical forests of Africa and the tropical region of Asia surrounding Indonesia.

In 2011, the weather in the three tropical regions was normal and the amount of carbon absorbed and released by them was in balance. The heat from forest fires in Indonesia - some of which were human-made - also increased tropical Asia's carbon dioxide release.

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