Awesome NASA project shows global carbon dioxide trends in new light (video)

18 Nov 2014

NASA | A Year in the Life of Earth's CO2, via YouTube

A computer model of Earth’s atmosphere by US space agency NASA has revealed the spread of carbon dioxide around the world – and it’s as amazing looking as it is worrying.

Plumes of carbon dioxide in the simulation – represented by a blood red hue – swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources, with most of the northern hemisphere blanketed in the stuff for half of the year.

Nature gives us a dig out during spring and summer, when plants soak up as much of the carbon dioxide as possible, although that’s also around the same time that fires in the southern hemisphere throw up loads of carbon monoxide.

We just can’t catch a break, us humans. Come winter, the cycle starts again.

“While the presence of carbon dioxide has dramatic global consequences, it’s fascinating to see how local emission sources and weather systems produce gradients of its concentration on a very regional scale,” said Bill Putman, lead scientist on the project from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Simulations like this, combined with data from observations, will help improve our understanding of both human emissions of carbon dioxide and natural fluxes across the globe.”

A computer model called GEOS-5, created by scientists at NASA Goddard’s global modelling and assimilation office, produced the carbon dioxide visualisation.

In particular, the visualisation is part of a simulation called a ‘Nature Run’. The Nature Run ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates.

While Goddard scientists have been tweaking a beta version of the Nature Run internally for several years, they are now releasing this updated, improved version to the scientific community for the first time.

“We’re very excited to share this revolutionary dataset with the modelling and data assimilation community,” Putman said, “and we hope the comprehensiveness of this product and its ground-breaking resolution will provide a platform for research and discovery throughout the Earth science community.”

Check out the video, it’s pretty cool.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic