El Nino of 2014-16 Aided Massive Release of Carbon Dioxide (Download PDF)


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Data collected by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite found that monster El Nino of 2014 - 16 caused over 3 billion tonnes of carbon release into the atmosphere, taking carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration to record levels.

Chart of Recent Global Monthly Mean CO2

Chart of Recent Global Monthly Mean CO2

Chart of Recent Global Monthly Mean CO2

  • NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite measures level of CO2 in the atmosphere

  • These are first measurements for satellite tracking CO2 levels

What is El Nino?

Map of EI Nino Conditions

Map of EI Nino Conditions

Map of EI Nino Conditions

El Nino climate event causes waters to warm up in east-central Pacific Ocean causing changes in wind directions- bringing less rain to Southeast Asia and Indian subcontinent, while increasing rain in other parts of the world.

How Does El Nino Lead to Excessive Carbon Dioxide?

  • Hot weather and drought cause extensive wildfires in south-east Asia

  • Drought in the Amazon rainforest stunts plant growth, reducing the amount of absorbed carbon

  • Warmer weather and near normal rainfall in Africa cause forests to release more CO2.

Impact of El Nino

The rate of growth of CO2 hit an all-time high of 2.94 parts per million per year in 2015

CO2 was added at higher rate than before even with same anthropogenic carbon emissions- in 2014 and 2015, CO2emissions from fossil fuels flattened out to about 36.2 billion tonnes and projections for 2016 indicated same emissions.

More CO2 from Human Activities

  • Industrialized countries are missing targets of Paris Climate Accord of 2015

  • European Union countries have increased emissions in 2015 but rate of reduction from US and Japan is less then what was pledged at Paris.

- Published/Last Modified on: September 26, 2017


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