Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Global C02 Emissions

"[Dried, rotting forests, responsible for the] largest annual increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration seen in at least 2,000 years."
"[Under current forecasts] the role of the tropical land as a buffer for fossil fuel emissions may be reduced in the future."
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, October statement

"[Each region; Africa, South America, Indonesia, represents a] different problem."
"This huge increase in atmospheric C02 growth rate happened when [human-generated] emissions were basically flat for three years."
Scott Denning, OCO-2 science team member
An infographic depicting the unusually high levels of carbon dioxide release from three tropical continents during 2015 El Niño. | NASA/JPL/Caltech

An example of a classic 'feedback loop' identified by atmospheric scientists can be seen in the Arctic where as its ice caps melt, the methane they isolate becomes released into the atmosphere, with the result that the greenhouse gases circling the globe are boosted enormously. The ice that had held ancient methane captured in its secure embrace, releases it as it gradually melts, adding greatly to the harmful presence of deadly gases warming the atmosphere.

Now a new source of atmospheric carbon dioxide has been identified through the recording of a new NASA earth satellite called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2). The areas of the world that have been instrumental in raising carbon atmospheric levels have been made more vulnerable to their release, thanks to the prevalence of El Nino and its warming, drying properties. Formerly verdant, wet areas of Africa, South America and Indonesia are now dry and rotted forests.

An additional 2.5 billion tonnes of additional emissions of carbon have resulted from the state of the formerly lush forests, now releasing the carbon they were formerly harbouring. The sum total of the carbon emissions have been seen as equal with the annual human-caused emissions coming out of India, and roughly 3-1/2 times larger than total emissions for 2015 in Canada: 722,000,000 tonnes.

A sum total that ranks third behind the emissions of China and the United States. The satellite, launched in 2015, provides day-to-day observations locating where precisely carbon is being emitted from, and where, in contrast, carbon is being absorbed. Three areas were recognized as causing an emission spike of great proportions; the Amazon rainforest, Indonesian forests and tropical East Africa which includes parts of South Sudan and Ethiopia.
nasa Whats Behind The Global CO2 Spike? NASA Says Blame El Nino
The last El Nino in 2015-16 impacted the amount of carbon dioxide that Earth’s tropical regions released into the atmosphere, leading to Earth’s recent record spike in atmospheric carbon dioxide. The effects of the El Nino were different in each region. (Photo credit: NASA-JPL/Caltech)

Plants in forests that are abnormally stressed by prevailing heat fail to consume the C02 they would normally absorb. So much for the Amazon, while in Africa, though it was wet, it was also unusually heated, affecting plant matter to rot at a greater rate, while Indonesian forest were consumed by fire and exuding carbon. An especially difficult El Nino resulted in a period of global warm weather, causing these atmospheric and forest-related conditions.

NASA has recognized a curbing effect of carbon emissions caused by human activity. And at the same time, while human-caused emissions have been reduced, natural causes of rising carbon emissions have risen enormously, thanks in large part to El Nino and its devastating effect on the flora in these critical parts of the world's forests. Troublingly, many climate models forecast longer and fiercer El Nino events for the future.

In the best of all possible natural scenarios, roughly half of every tonne of carbon released by the burning of fossil fuels becomes neutralized through absorption in forests or in the ocean; the remaining half circulating in the atmosphere. With the discovery of these recent events, it may just be a harbinger of reliance on forests to continue to absorb critical amounts of C02 may fail to meet expectations.

This picture taken from a Kamov helicopter operated by Indonesia's Disaster Mitigation Agency shows fires burning at a concession area in Pelalawan, Riau province on September 17, 2015. | Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images

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