Every year, billions of tons of carbon dioxide is emitted into our atmosphere. “About half of the carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuel combustion remains in the atmosphere,” according to Bill Putman, a climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The other half? It’s absorbed naturally back into the environment via plants and the oceans.
The data in the video below is from 2006 and was created using a computer model called GEOS-5. This visualization below is part of the simulation dubbed ‘Nature Run.’ Scientists take real data atmospheric conditions and emissions from natural and man-made sources. Then, they let the model simulate the natural behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere.
The video above shows varying concentrations of carbon dioxide ranging from 375 parts per million (blue) to 385 ppm (red) and 395 ppm (pink). Carbon monoxide is represented as white.
Wind patterns push carbon dioxide quickly around the world. Carbon dioxide emitted in the U.S. quickly travels across the Atlantic. Same goes for emissions from China. It highlights how global warming is a worldwide problem, not something that can be solved by a handful of countries. It will take a concerted effort by countries around the world to tackle carbon dioxide emissions.
While it’s easy to see how emissions affect areas on a global scale, it’s also interesting to see how it affects areas by region.
Check out the video below and watch how the Himalayas act as a wall against carbon dioxide emissions in China from moving west.
The first video also highlights how plants absorbs some of carbon dioxide in the spring and summer. As winter approaches, plants become dormant and the photosynthesis process shuts down. This leads to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere.
Climate scientists hope to use models and visualizations, like the one above, to understand exactly where all the carbon dioxide goes, and how it warms the planet.