El Niño Playing a Major Role in Increase of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide - Dispatch Weekly

June 14, 2016 - Reading time: 2 minutes

Beyond all the known issues that El Niño gives rise to there is another major problem that the phenomenon is responsible for – increase in concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). That’s according to a new study published in Journal Nature Climate Change.

Researchers in the UK have revealed that while human activities are already causing a massive increase in of CO2 in the atmosphere, El Niño is helping create conditions that amp up the concentrations to higher level.

Lead author of the study Professor Richard Betts, who is with Met Office Hadley Centre and University of Exeter reveals through the study that El Niño is bringing about changes in the sea-surface temperature of the tropical Pacific Ocean effectively warms and dries tropical ecosystems, which in turn reduces their uptake of carbon, and exacerbating forest fires.

According to estimates put forward by the researchers the current year will be the first year with concentrations above 400 parts per million all year round in the iconic Mauna Loa carbon dioxide record. The trend in increase of CO2 concentrations was first spotted by Charles David Keeling when he began recording CO2 at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, in 1958.

Keeling’s earliest measurements pegged CO2 concentration at 315 parts per million and six decades down the line, it stands at well above those levels. There has been an average rate of 2.1 parts per million increase in these 60 years, but using a seasonal climate forecast model and statistical relationship with sea temperatures, Professor Betts and colleagues forecast the rise this year to be a record 3.15 + – 0.53 parts per million.

The average concentration in 2016 is forecast to be 404.45 +-0.53 parts per million, dropping to 401.48 +- 0.53 in September before resuming their ongoing rise next year. The scientists already successfully predicted this year’s maximum concentration of 407 parts per million last month.

Since natural processes only remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere gradually, levels will remain high even if human emissions began to decline. Scientists expect the concentrations to now remain above 400 parts per million for at least a human lifetime.

Carbon Dioxide is a huge problem for planet Earth and while scientists around the world are looking for ways to decrease atmospheric CO2 concentrations through innovative means we are still seeing increase in concentrations of this greenhouse gas.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.