Blame it on El Nino

"These three tropical regions released 2.5 gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere than they did in 2011", lead study author Junjie Liu of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a news release.

NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2) satellite, launched in 2014, measures atmospheric carbon dioxide levels with a spatial resolution of 3 km. The phenomenon affects the weather worldwide and may last for years at a time. 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 research team of OCO-2 said that emission of carbon was in excess during the 2015-2016 El Niño, Los Angeles Times reported. The 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.

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.

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. These measurements help scientists produce models of plant decomposition rates across the globe.

In 2011, the weather in the three tropical regions was normal and the amount of carbon absorbed and released by them was in balance.

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. In Africa, higher than usual temperatures led plants to decompose much quicker, causing carbon dioxide to rapidly release into the atmosphere. 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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