NASA’s 3D Animation Shows How Carbon Dioxide Moves Through The Atmosphere

Posted: Dec 14 2016, 12:54pm CST | by , Updated: Dec 14 2016, 12:58pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

NASA’s 3D Animation Reveals How Carbon Dioxide Moves Through the Atmosphere
Credit: NASA
 

The stunning simulation provides one of the most realistic views yet of the carbon dioxide concentrations on a global scale

NASA’s 3D visualization has given scientists a stunning new look at how carbon dioxide travels across the Earth’s atmosphere. 

Carbon dioxide plays a major role in accelerating global warming. The gas is released from human activities, predominantly burning of fossil fuels and traps the heat in the atmosphere, which eventually contributes to climate change. The process through which carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere is commonly known as greenhouse effect.

Combining satellite observations with ground-based measurements of carbon dioxide, the animation provides one of the most realistic views yet of how this greenhouse gas moves through the atmosphere. 

This startling animation could help scientists find answers to critical questions on which ecosystem like land and ocean absorbs what amount of carbon dioxide and what is the rate of their absorption. More importantly, the better understanding of how much and how long emitted carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere can help determine the Earth’s future climate.

“We can't measure the flux directly at high resolution across the entire globe. We are trying to build the tools needed to provide an accurate picture of what's happening in the atmosphere and translating that to an accurate picture of what's going on with the flux,” said Lesley Ott, a carbon cycle scientist at NASA Goddard. 

“There's still a long way to go, but this is a really important and necessary step in that chain of discoveries about carbon dioxide.”

The carbon dioxide simulation is generated by the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt and utilizes data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite taken throughout a year, from September 2014 to September 2015.

Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) is the first satellite that studies the atmospheric carbon from space and is intended to improve the understanding of natural processes and human activities that effect the distribution of CO2 on a global scale.

The visualization presents information about global carbon dioxide concentrations in such a detail that has not been seen before.

“Since September of 2014, OCO-2 has been returning almost 100,000 carbon dioxide estimates over the globe each day,” said David Crisp, the team leader of satellite OCO-2. “Modeling tools like those being developed by our colleagues in the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office are critical for analyzing and interpreting this high resolution dataset.”

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