Major Northern Hemispheric Carbon Sink Discovered

by William Yeatman on December 26, 2001

in Science

Using satellite data researchers have determined that the forests in the U.S., Europe, and Russia soak up at least 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to 12 percent of annual global emissions, according to a study appearing in the December 18 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. U.S. forests, according to the study, soak up about 140 million tons of carbon per year or about 11 percent of U.S. total emissions.

“This is only a piece of the total carbon sink in the north which may be as large as 2 billion tons,” said Compton Tucker of NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, one of the studies authors. Other northern carbon sinks, such as soils, are also suggested.

Some forests, such as the Canadian boreal forest, are losing carbon. It is not clear why, however. “This means that we do not know whether these forests will continue to store carbon in the future or release it at some point. That is why we need to monitor them both from space.”

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