Scientists discover the reason behind extreme global carbon cycle sink event

Dr Natascha Kljun from Swansea University’s College of Science is one of the co-authors of a report published on Nature.com that identifies the event that has caused a momentous change in global water and carbon cycles.

Natascha KljunDr Kljun (left) explained: “In 2011, one of the most notable events occurred in global water and carbon cycles: ocean levels dropped by 5mm, reversing a long-term increasing trend, and carbon uptake by vegetation resulted in an enormous global land carbon sink.

“Working with a team from Australia (the University of Technology, Sydney and Flinders University, Adelaide) we have found how this event was driven by a rare superimposition of three ocean-atmosphere systems: the El Niño-Southern Oscillation in the tropical Pacific Ocean; the Indian Ocean dipole in the tropical Indian Ocean, and the southern annular mode in the Southern Ocean.

“While these systems were in phase, extreme amounts of rain over Australia persisted as water stored on the Australian continent. Vegetation and ecosystems - adapted over millions of years to alternations of very wet and very dry weather - flourished and through their extraordinary growth sequestered an additional 20% of carbon from the atmosphere, to be stored as part of their biomass.”

The full report can be found on the Nature website.