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Tropical land carbon cycle responses to 2015/16 El Nino as recorded by atmospheric greenhouse gas and remote sensing data
  • Published Date:
    2018
  • Source:
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 373(1760), 12.
Filetype[PDF-1.41 MB]


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  • Description:
    The outstanding tropical land climate characteristic over the past decades is rapid warming, with no significant large-scale precipitation trends. This warming is expected to continue but the effects on tropical vegetation are unknown. El Nino-related heat peaks may provide a test bed for a future hotter world. Here we analyse tropical land carbon cycle responses to the 2015/16 El Nino heat and drought anomalies using an atmospheric transport inversion. Based on the global atmospheric CO2 and fossil fuel emission records, we find no obvious signs of anomalously large carbon release compared with earlier El Nino events, suggesting resilience of tropical vegetation. We find roughly equal net carbon release anomalies from Amazonia and tropical Africa, approximately 0.5 PgC each, and smaller carbon release anomalies from tropical East Asia and southern Africa. Atmospheric CO anomalies reveal substantial fire carbon release from tropical East Asia peaking in October 2015 while fires contribute only a minor amount to the Amazonian carbon flux anomaly. Anomalously large Amazonian carbon flux release is consistent with downregulation of primary productivity during peak negative near-surface water anomaly (October 2015 to March 2016) as diagnosed by solar-induced fluorescence. Finally, we find an unexpected anomalous positive flux to the atmosphere from tropical Africa early in 2016, coincident with substantial CO release. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'The impact of the 2015/2016 El Nino on the terrestrial tropical carbon cycle: patterns, mechanisms and implications'.

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