National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2018

Influence of El Niño on atmospheric CO2 over the tropical Pacific Ocean: Findings from NASA’s OCO-2 mission

Chatterjee, A., M.M. Gierach, A.J. Sutton, R.A. Feely, D. Crisp, A. Eldering, M.R. Gunson, C.W. O’Dell, B.B. Stephens, and D.S. Schimel

Science, 358(6360), eaam5776, doi: 10.1126/science.aam5776 (2017)

Spaceborne observations of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 are used to characterize the response of tropical atmospheric CO2 concentrations to the strong El Niño event of 2015–2016. Although correlations between the growth rate of atmospheric CO2 concentrations and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation are well known, the magnitude of the correlation and the timing of the responses of oceanic and terrestrial carbon cycle remain poorly constrained in space and time. We used space-based CO2 observations to confirm that the tropical Pacific Ocean does play an early and important role in modulating the changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations during El Niño events—a phenomenon inferred but not previously observed because of insufficient high-density, broad-scale CO2 observations over the tropics.

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