Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Firefighters in Siak Riau, Indinesia in September 2015. The next years' El Nino likely made such fires worse. (Credit: AP Photo/Rony Muharrman)

2015-2016 was a record year for atmospheric carbon, and NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) captured all of it. In a series of papers published Thursday in the journal Science, NASA researchers report using the satellites to pinpoint ways in which the years' strong El Niño exacerbated a series of carbon-emitting events around the globe.

Why it matters: "If future climate is more like this recent El Niño, the trouble is the Earth may actually lose some of the carbon removal services we get from these tropical forests, and then CO2 will increase even faster in the atmosphere," said Scott Denning, an OCO-2 scientist at a NASA press conference.

Why they did it: All told, 3 billion more metric tons of carbon were released in 2015 than 2011. But in 2015, CO2 emissions directly from human activities were fairly stable, so scientists wanted to know why the atmospheric levels were so high. The OCO-2 identifies natural and unnatural sources of carbon. According to OCO-2's estimates, roughly 80% of the extra CO2 emitted in 2015 could be linked to El Niño.

Drought in the Amazon: Drought-stressed rainforest plants take up CO2 more slowly than plants with enough water. Tropical rainforests are considered some of the most important carbon sinks on the planet, and play a key role in keeping CO2 levels in check.

Indonesian Fires: El Niño caused an unusually arid dry season in Indonesia, which allowed for the rapid spread of wildfires. As the forests burned, they released some the CO2 the trees had previously absorbed. The resulting haze stretched across much of Southeast Asia, and researchers estimate it may have been responsible for over 90,000 premature deaths. It should be noted that while El Niño contributed to the size and severity of Indonesia's catastrophic fires, they were initially started as illegal slash-and-burn land clearing.

Warmer Africa: Researchers think higher temperatures in Africa caused dead plants to decompose faster, a process that releases CO2.

Another study showed it's possible to locate precise sources of CO2, including cities and volcanoes.

Go deeper

The modern way to hire a big-city police chief

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

When it comes to picking a city's top cop, closed-door selection processes have been replaced by highly public exercises where everyone gets to vet the candidates — who must have better community-relations skills than ever.

Why it matters: In the post-George-Floyd era, with policing under utmost scrutiny, the choosing of a police chief has become something akin to an election, with the need to build consensus around a candidate. And the candidate pool has gotten smaller.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
25 mins ago - Economy & Business

Speculative crypto art market takes off

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Move over, GameStop. The newest speculative game in town is NFTs — digital files that can be owned and traded on a plethora of new online platforms.

Why it matters: Most NFTs include some kind of still or moving image, which makes them similar to many physical art objects. Some of them, including a gif of Nyan Cat flying through the sky with a pop-tart body and rainbow trail, can be worth more than your house.

New coronavirus cases fall by 20%

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New coronavirus infections continued their sharp decline over the past week, and are now back down to pre-Thanksgiving levels.

The big picture: Given the U.S.’ experience over the past year, it can be hard to trust anything that looks like good news, without fearing that another shoe is about to drop. But the U.S. really is doing something right lately. Cases are way down, vaccinations are way up, and that’s going to save a lot of lives.