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Climate change is causing extreme drought. A drought in turn worsen warming

Higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere not only drives up the Earth's temperature, but also causes extreme weather events - such as heat waves, drought, severe storms and rains. Yet these very phenomena is compounded by the ongoing climate change because ecosystems because they absorb less atmospheric carbon.

According to scientists from the Max Planck Institute are terrestrial ecosystems each year to absorb about 11 billion tons less CO2 due to extreme weather. This is a volume that is roughly equal to one third of global emissions per year.

But more importantly, it's about half the amount of carbon that terrestrial ecosystems commonly caught per year. "So it is clear that the impact of extreme weather on the ability to capture carbon is certainly not negligible," says Markus Reichstein from the Max Planck Institute.

According to German researchers has shown that it is drought and heat strongly affect the carbon cycle over land. It leads to the capture of carbon in plants and soil. Due to extreme events is likely to weaken the ability of terrestrial ecosystems to absorb the impact of climate change. According to scientists in the last fifty years have been able to capture up to 30% of the carbon dioxide that is related to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels.

Researchers used satellite photographs from the years 1982 - 2011 to find out how much sunlight the plants in the area capable of use for photosynthesis. It then finding out how much biomass on the site grew and was able to absorb carbon during or after the extreme weather. Also used the data of five thousand stations that measure emission concentrations near the ground. Thus were able to calculate how much carbon dioxide systems receive and how much they are.

But the drought and heat wave could in the future could become even more common, at least according to some climate experts. This would mean more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and have a stronger influence on global warming. A further extremes in the weather.

For example, extreme drought significantly reduces the ability of forests, grasslands and agricultural areas cultivated carbon capture. "We found that the greatest risk is involved in heat wave, but very dry," says Markus Reichstein. Drought not only directly damage trees, but it weakens the pest or fires. In addition, forests also from fires or storms slowly recovering, unlike other terrestrial ecosystems.

According to scientists, can greatly reduce the ability to capture carbon powerful natural disasters such as earthquakes or avalanches. You are indeed a very small part, but their impact is even more pronounced.

That's why scientists want to examine other extreme events. "We have to take into account the things that happen once in a thousand or ten thousand years, since the end of the century will probably be much more likely that will happen," says Reichstein.


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