Spikes in carbon emissions detected with NASA satellite

Kevin Frayer

Kevin Frayer

The results of five studies published Thursday in the journal Science, are based on data collected by the satellite "Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 or OCO-2, launched by the u.s. space agency in 2014". 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.

"These data reveal a refreshing change to the carbon cycle in the northern hemisphere depending on the season, including a net increase of CO2 in the atmosphere in the spring from the terrestrial vegetation", leading one of these searches.

"During the winter, however, carbon uptake by plants is minimal, while the breakdown or decay of plant material feeds carbon back into the atmosphere".

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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.

With the advancement of the spring and summer approaches, the plants begin to absorb new CO2 playing the role of a carbon sink.

Another of these five studies has determined that the equatorial current warm Pacific El Nino, which reappears periodically, has more recently resulted in emissions of Carbon dioxide more important in the tropics than in the previous years.

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El Nino is a weather pattern that causes sea surface temperature and air pressure in the Pacific Ocean to fluctuate, and may last years at a time.

The 2015 El Nino "resulted in the release of about 2.5 gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere in 2015 than in 2011", said the report.

"Lower precipitation in South America and increased temperatures in Africa were key drivers" of this change, it added.

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And as carbon-eating plants burned up, more and more carbon was released.

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