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      The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) tracks 2–3 peta-gram increase in carbon release to the atmosphere during the 2014–2016 El Niño


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          The powerful El Niño event of 2015–2016 – the third most intense since the 1950s – has exerted a large impact on the Earth’s natural climate system. The column-averaged CO 2 dry-air mole fraction (XCO 2) observations from satellites and ground-based networks are analyzed together with in situ observations for the period of September 2014 to October 2016. From the differences between satellite (OCO-2) observations and simulations using an atmospheric chemistry-transport model, we estimate that, relative to the mean annual fluxes for 2014, the most recent El Niño has contributed to an excess CO 2 emission from the Earth’s surface (land + ocean) to the atmosphere in the range of 2.4 ± 0.2 PgC (1 Pg = 10 15 g) over the period of July 2015 to June 2016. The excess CO 2 flux is resulted primarily from reduction in vegetation uptake due to drought, and to a lesser degree from increased biomass burning. It is about the half of the CO 2 flux anomaly (range: 4.4–6.7 PgC) estimated for the 1997/1998 El Niño. The annual total sink is estimated to be 3.9 ± 0.2 PgC for the assumed fossil fuel emission of 10.1 PgC. The major uncertainty in attribution arise from error in anthropogenic emission trends, satellite data and atmospheric transport.

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          Most cited references29

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          Interannual extremes in the rate of rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1980

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            An atmospheric perspective on North American carbon dioxide exchange: CarbonTracker.

            We present an estimate of net CO(2) exchange between the terrestrial biosphere and the atmosphere across North America for every week in the period 2000 through 2005. This estimate is derived from a set of 28,000 CO(2) mole fraction observations in the global atmosphere that are fed into a state-of-the-art data assimilation system for CO(2) called CarbonTracker. By design, the surface fluxes produced in CarbonTracker are consistent with the recent history of CO(2) in the atmosphere and provide constraints on the net carbon flux independent from national inventories derived from accounting efforts. We find the North American terrestrial biosphere to have absorbed -0.65 PgC/yr (1 petagram = 10(15) g; negative signs are used for carbon sinks) averaged over the period studied, partly offsetting the estimated 1.85 PgC/yr release by fossil fuel burning and cement manufacturing. Uncertainty on this estimate is derived from a set of sensitivity experiments and places the sink within a range of -0.4 to -1.0 PgC/yr. The estimated sink is located mainly in the deciduous forests along the East Coast (32%) and the boreal coniferous forests (22%). Terrestrial uptake fell to -0.32 PgC/yr during the large-scale drought of 2002, suggesting sensitivity of the contemporary carbon sinks to climate extremes. CarbonTracker results are in excellent agreement with a wide collection of carbon inventories that form the basis of the first North American State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR), to be released in 2007. All CarbonTracker results are freely available at http://carbontracker.noaa.gov.
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              The total carbon column observing network.

              A global network of ground-based Fourier transform spectrometers has been founded to remotely measure column abundances of CO(2), CO, CH(4), N(2)O and other molecules that absorb in the near-infrared. These measurements are directly comparable with the near-infrared total column measurements from space-based instruments. With stringent requirements on the instrumentation, acquisition procedures, data processing and calibration, the Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON) achieves an accuracy and precision in total column measurements that is unprecedented for remote-sensing observations (better than 0.25% for CO(2)). This has enabled carbon-cycle science investigations using the TCCON dataset, and allows the TCCON to provide a link between satellite measurements and the extensive ground-based in situ network.

                Author and article information

                Sci Rep
                Sci Rep
                Scientific Reports
                Nature Publishing Group UK (London )
                19 October 2017
                19 October 2017
                : 7
                : 13567
                [1 ]RCGC/IACE, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Yokohama, 236-0001 Japan
                [2 ]ISNI 0000000107068890, GRID grid.20861.3d, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, ; Pasadena, CA USA
                [3 ]ISNI 0000 0004 0491 8257, GRID grid.419509.0, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, ; Mainz, Germany
                [4 ]ISNI 0000 0001 2157 2938, GRID grid.17063.33, Department of Physics, University of Toronto, ; Toronto, Canada
                [5 ]ISNI 0000 0001 2191 0132, GRID grid.410588.0, Project Team for HPC Advanced Predictions utilizing Big Data, JAMSTEC, ; Yokohama, 236001 Japan
                [6 ]ISNI 0000000107068890, GRID grid.20861.3d, California Institute of Technology, ; Pasadena, CA USA
                [7 ]ISNI 0000 0004 0491 7318, GRID grid.419500.9, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, ; Jena, Germany
                [8 ]ISNI 0000 0000 9252 5808, GRID grid.419676.b, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd (NIWA), ; Lauder, New Zealand
                [9 ]ISNI 0000 0004 0486 528X, GRID grid.1007.6, School of Chemistry, University of Wollongong, ; NSW, 2522 Australia
                [10 ]ISNI 0000 0001 2289 3389, GRID grid.8654.f, Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, ; Brussels, Belgium
                [11 ]ISNI 0000 0000 8634 1877, GRID grid.410493.b, Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, ; MD, 21046 USA
                [12 ]ISNI 0000 0004 0637 6666, GRID grid.133275.1, NASA Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, ; MD, 20771 USA
                [13 ]ISNI 0000 0001 0746 5933, GRID grid.140139.e, Present Address: Center for Global Environmental Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies, ; Tsukuba, 305-8506 Japan
                [14 ]ISNI 0000 0004 0370 1101, GRID grid.136304.3, Present Address: Center for Environmental Remote Sensing (CEReS), Chiba University, ; Chiba, Japan
                Author information
                © The Author(s) 2017

                Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                : 3 October 2016
                : 25 September 2017
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