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NASA computer model provides a new portrait of carbon dioxide

17 November 2014

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An ultra-high-resolution NASA computer model has given scientists a stunning new look at how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere travels around the globe.

Plumes of carbon dioxide in the simulation swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources. The simulation also illustrates differences in carbon dioxide levels in the northern and southern hemispheres and distinct swings in global carbon dioxide concentrations as the growth cycle of plants and trees changes with the seasons.

Scientists have made ground-based measurements of carbon dioxide for decades and in July NASA launched the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite to make global, space-based carbon observations. But the simulation - the product of a new computer model that is among the highest-resolution ever created - is the first to show in such fine detail how carbon dioxide actually moves through the atmosphere.

"While the presence of carbon dioxide has dramatic global consequences, it's fascinating to see how local emission sources and weather systems produce gradients of its concentration on a very regional scale," said Bill Putman, lead scientist on the project from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "Simulations like this, combined with data from observations, will help improve our understanding of both human emissions of carbon dioxide and natural fluxes across the globe."

Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/B. Putman - Carbon dioxide over North America

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