A NASA satellite has found another thing to blame on El Nino: A recent record high increase of carbon dioxide in the air.
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.
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.
Researchers found that in drought-struck parts of South America plants grew less, there were more fires in Asia, and there was an increased rate of leaf decay in Africa.
The NASA satellite showed that 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.
That 3 billion tons of carbon, while significant, is still dwarfed by the 10 billion tons a year that comes from the burning of coal, oil and gas, said Scott Denning, a Colorado State University atmospheric scientist.
"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.
Oceans took out more than normal amount of carbon out of the atmosphere, but it wasn't enough to compensate for the land deficit, Eldering said.
Then, as spring gets under way and summer approaches, plants begin to soak up more carbon again.
And some computer simulations say the frequency of El Nino will increase in the future with climate change, Denning said during a NASA press conference.