Weak Northern and Strong Tropical Land Carbon Uptake from Vertical Profiles of Atmospheric CO2

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Science  22 Jun 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5832, pp. 1732-1735
DOI: 10.1126/science.1137004

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Measurements of midday vertical atmospheric CO2 distributions reveal annual-mean vertical CO2 gradients that are inconsistent with atmospheric models that estimate a large transfer of terrestrial carbon from tropical to northern latitudes. The three models that most closely reproduce the observed annual-mean vertical CO2 gradients estimate weaker northern uptake of –1.5 petagrams of carbon per year (Pg C year–1) and weaker tropical emission of +0.1 Pg C year–1 compared with previous consensus estimates of –2.4 and +1.8 Pg C year–1, respectively. This suggests that northern terrestrial uptake of industrial CO2 emissions plays a smaller role than previously thought and that, after subtracting land-use emissions, tropical ecosystems may currently be strong sinks for CO2.

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