Using satellites and supercomputers, NASA scientists have recreated a year in the life of CO2.

Using satellites and supercomputers, NASA scientists have recreated a year in the life of CO2.

NASA released a new visualization of carbon dioxide life over a year. This visualization shows how carbon dioxide spins around the globe like a river (fun fact: scientists model the atmosphere using techniques similar to those used with fluid dynamics).

This includes the seasonal rise and fall that has been well documented at Hawaii's Mauna Loa Observatory via the iconic Keeling Bend, as the growth of Northern Hemisphere plants in the summer helps sequester carbon. THE new visualization goes way beyond that 2-D graphic of a place. It shows how carbon dioxide moves and changes at different heights in the atmosphere.

The data is courtesy of NASA's OCO-2 satellite, which has been taking nearly 100,000 carbon dioxide measurements a day since it went online in September 2014. The satellite is the first of its kind to measure sources and carbon dioxide sinks from space. This means it can show where carbon pollution is coming from and how much is being absorbed by oceans and forests (plus how much remains in the atmosphere).

Combining that data with meteorological models running NASA's supercomputers, we get one of the most in-depth insights into carbon dioxide around the planet.

We are trying to build the tools necessary to provide an accurate picture of what is happening in the atmosphere and translate that into another accurate picture of what is happening with the flow, "Cycle Scientist Lesley Ott said in a press release. carbon from NASA working on the OCO-2 data "There is still a long way to go, but this is a very important and necessary step in that chain of discoveries about carbon dioxide."

Understanding the sources of carbon pollution is important for climate negotiations, as well as regional plans for how to reduce it. Determining where the carbon dioxide is being absorbed is equally important.

There are concerns that some sinks that absorb carbon dioxide could lose their ability to sequester carbon as the climate changes. The Amazon rainforest, for example, sucks up about a quarter of all the carbon dioxide absorbed by vegetation, but there are indications that a drying trend has been hampering that ability.

The data from the OCO-2 is considered another tool that scientists have to monitor changes in the Amazon, as well as in other forests and oceans around the globe. With carbon dioxide passing crucial milestones this year and unlikely to decline in the very near future, these efforts will be even more important in determining what to expect for our planet.


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