El Nino contributes to new high in CO2 levels

From Al Jazeera - October 13, 2017

The amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) in our world is likely to top 410 parts per million (ppm) this year. The CO2 measured at the Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory in Hawaii hit 405.1 ppm in 2016 - an increase of 3 ppm over the previous year, marking five consecutive years of an unprecedented rate of growth, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

CO2 is the most prominent, abundant and measurable greenhouse gas, responsible for keeping the world warm enough for life. It is also capable of making the atmosphere too warm when its concentration becomes too great.

The increased burning of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution has driven up the amount of CO2 held in the atmosphere to unprecedented levels. However, a new NASA study provides space-based evidence that Earth's tropical regions were the source of the largest annual increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in at least 2,000 years.

The 2015-16 El Nino - one of the largest on record - caused abnormal, but expected, heat and drought in the tropical regions of South America, Africa and Indonesia. "These three tropical regions released 2.5 gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere than they did in 2011," said Junjie Liu of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, who is the lead author of the study.

Warming trend

NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 mission, (OCO-2), launched in 2014, gathers global measurements of atmospheric CO2 with the resolution, precision and coverage needed to map the movement and concentration of CO2 around the world.


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