The effect was so large that it was the main factor in the biggest
one-year jump in heat-trapping gas levels in modern record, NASA
Scientists have long known that carbon dioxide levels spike during an El Nino, the natural occasional warming of parts of the central Pacific that causes droughts in some places, floods in others and generally adds to warmer temperatures worldwide.
Data from NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, which was launched in 2014, provides more specifics on how that happens and how it affects the continents differently.
Researchers found that in drought-struck parts of South America, for instance, plants grew less. There were more fires in Asia, and there was an increased rate of leaf decay in Africa. The findings were published Thursday in the journal Science.
Debra Wunch, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Toronto and one of the study co-authors. She said "that the data the researchers continue to collect over the next several years, will lead to a much better understanding of the the carbon cycle, where the CO2 is coming from and where it's going.Those are pieces of the puzzle that we're really excited to learn about."
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