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Drought lowered earth's ability to absorb carbon

The terrible 2002 drought that shrivelled crops and farmer's incomes from Canada to Mexico, also slashed the earth's ability to absorb carbon by half, new data suggests. Data shows that during the North American drought in 2002, the soil, trees, crops and grasslands could absorb only half of the usual amount of carbon. Normally, the continent's natural carbon sinks — the terrestrial ecosystem — absorb approximately 650 million metric tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. That's about one-third of the total North American emissions from human and natural sources. The study shows that in 2002, the amount the sinks absorbed plummeted to 320 million metric tonnes. That left the equivalent of the yearly emissions from more than 200 million cars in the atmosphere. Droughts leave fewer plants to absorb carbon dioxide. In another example of the effect, a heat wave and drought in Europe in 2003 left more than 500 million metric tons of carbon in the atmosphere. "If warming causes drought, and droughts end up releasing more carbon, and carbon causes warming, that's a positive feedback cycle that can get pretty scary."

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