The turn of the century drought in western North America significantly reduced carbon uptake in the region, reports a study published online in Nature Geoscience this week. Fossil fuel emissions aside, temperate North America currently serves as a net sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Christopher Schwalm and colleagues used satellite and observational data to assess the impact of the 2000-2004 drought in western North America on carbon uptake in the region. They show that carbon uptake declined by around 50% during the drought. Based on projected changes in rainfall and drought severity, they suggest that the present-day carbon sink in western North America could disappear by the end of the century.