NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has released a stunning video of how carbon dioxide moves across the world. The high-resolution computer model was produced by a supercomputer in 75 days. It shows plumes of the greenhouse gas entering the atmosphere from industrial centers and traveling from continent to continent. Atmospheric CO2 is one of the biggest drivers of global warming.
CO2 comes mainly from the Northern Hemisphere
The computer model created by NASA scientists depicts carbon emission between May 2005 and June 2007. It revealed that the carbon dioxide emissions come primarily from the Northern Hemisphere. Huge amounts of CO2 get absorbed seasonally by plants. As the simulation moves into summer, the red plumes of the invisible gas begin to fade because the carbon dioxide is absorbed by photosynthesizing plants. With the beginning of winter, carbon dioxide concentration increases in the atmosphere as vegetation dies.
In spring 2014, atmospheric CO2 exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in history, NASA said. Researchers have warned that carbon dioxide level above 450 parts per million will have “dangerous” consequences on climate. Before the Industrial Revolution, CO2 concentration was below 270 parts per million. But it has been increasing consistently, driven by the burning of fossil fuels.
NASA’s OCO-2 to offer new insights
NASA scientists estimate that humans worldwide dump more than 36 billion tons of extra carbon dioxide every year by burning fossil fuels. In July this year, NASA launched a new satellite called the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) to monitor carbon emissions. It will help scientists better understand what drives carbon dioxide concentrations.
The OCO-2 will also offer insights into carbon sinks such as oceans and forests that remove about 50% of all carbon emissions from the atmosphere. NASA’s computer model is part of Nature Run, a simulation that lets scientists understand how carbon dioxide builds up. It will also help scientists who want accurate climate predictions.