El Niño and CO2

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Science  10 Dec 1999:
Vol. 286, Issue 5447, pp. 2042
DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5447.2042b

During El Niño events, the tongue of warm surface water that spreads eastward across the equatorial Pacific Ocean reduces upwelling of cold, carbon dioxide (CO2)-rich water and thus reduces the amount of CO2 that is transferred to the atmosphere. Conversely, during La Niña years, when the eastern equatorial Pacific contains colder-than-average surface water, the CO2 flux from atmosphere to the ocean is high. Chavez et al. (p. 2126; see the cover) have collected data from sea surface sensors, ships, and satellites to construct a detailed picture of the chemistry and biology of the 1997–1998 El Niño, one of the strongest ever observed. These data have allowed them to quantify the effects of zonal winds and ocean circulation on primary productivity and air-sea CO2 fluxes.

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