NASA used satellite measurements of carbon dioxide to create a startling new 3D video that shows how the greenhouse gas moves through Earth’s atmosphere. In a little over a minute, you can see CO2 concentrations swirling around, up into the sky, and engulfing the Northern Hemisphere.
The data comes from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite, which was launched in 2014 to measure atmospheric CO2 at the regional scale. The observations — which cover one year, from September 2014 to September 2015 — were then combined with a high-resolution weather model to give an unprecedented 3D view.
Carbon dioxide, which is produced in high quantities by the burning of fossil fuels for energy, is rapidly warming up our planet. Scientists know that about 50 percent of human-made emissions stay in the atmosphere, about 25 percent is absorbed by the ocean, and the remaining 25 percent is absorbed by land vegetation. What they’re still trying to figure out is things like which ecosystems absorb what amount of CO2, according to NASA.
By showing how CO2 moves around, this new 3D visualization could help climate scientists answer some of those questions. "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,” Lesley Ott, a carbon cycle scientist at NASA Goddard, said in a statement. “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."
So take a look at how CO2 moved around above your head throughout the year, and how mountain ranges and ocean currents influenced the movement of carbon dioxide throughout the globe. It’s trippy, isn’t it?