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Does terrestrial drought explain global CO2 flux anomalies induced by El Nino?


Rödenbeck,  C.
Inverse Data-driven Estimation, Dr. C. Rödenbeck, Department Biogeochemical Systems, Prof. M. Heimann, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Schwalm, C. R., Williams, C. A., Schaefer, K., Baker, I., Collatz, G. J., & Rödenbeck, C. (2011). Does terrestrial drought explain global CO2 flux anomalies induced by El Nino? Biogeosciences, 8(9), 2493-2506. doi:10.5194/bg-8-2493-2011.

The El Nino Southern Oscillation is the dominant year-to-year mode of global climate variability. El Nino effects on terrestrial carbon cycling are mediated by associated climate anomalies, primarily drought, influencing fire emissions and biotic net ecosystem exchange (NEE). Here we evaluate whether El Nino produces a consistent response from the global carbon cycle. We apply a novel bottom-up approach to estimating global NEE anomalies based on FLUXNET data using land cover maps and weather reanalysis. We analyze 13 years (1997-2009) of globally gridded observational NEE anomalies derived from eddy covariance flux data, remotely-sensed fire emissions at the monthly time step, and NEE estimated from an atmospheric transport inversion. We evaluate the overall consistency of biospheric response to El Nino and, more generally, the link between global CO(2) flux anomalies and El Nino-induced drought. Our findings, which are robust relative to uncertainty in both methods and time-lags in response, indicate that each event has a different spatial signature with only limited spatial coherence in Amazonia, Australia and southern Africa. For most regions, the sign of response changed across El Nino events. Biotic NEE anomalies, across 5 El Nino events, ranged from -1.34 to +0.98 Pg C yr(-1), whereas fire emissions anomalies were generally smaller in magnitude (ranging from -0.49 to +0.53 Pg C yr(-1)). Overall drought does not appear to impose consistent terrestrial CO(2) flux anomalies during El Ninos, finding large variation in globally integrated responses from -1.15 to +0.49 Pg C yr(-1). Despite the significant correlation between the CO(2) flux and El Nino indices, we find that El Nino events have, when globally integrated, both enhanced and weakened terrestrial sink strength, with no consistent response across events.