Models create a dynamic portrait of the Earth through numerical experiments that simulate our current knowledge of the dynamical and physical processes governing weather and climate variability. This new simulation of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere provides an ultra-high-resolution look at how the key greenhouse gas moves around the globe and fluctuates in volume throughout the year. These three close-up views show how local geography affects the transport of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The visualization is a product of a NASA computer model called GEOS-5, created by scientists with the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. This particular simulation has about 64 times greater resolution than most global climate models. In particular, the simulation is called a Nature Run. In this kind of simulation, real data on emissions and atmospheric conditions is ingested by the model, which is then left to run on its own to simulate the behavior of Earth's atmosphere for a two-year period - in this case, May 2005 to June 2007.
The colors represent a range of carbon dioxide concentrations, from 375 (dark blue) to 395 (light purple) parts per million. The red represents about 385 parts per million. White plumes represent carbon monoxide emissions.
North American Emissions: One of the visually striking things about this animation is how much local weather patterns affect carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In this close-up view of North America - from Feb. 1, 2006 to Mar. 1, 2006 in the simulation - you can see the major emissions sources in the U.S. Midwest and along the East Coast. As the carbon dioxide is emitted, westerly winds created by the warm currents of the Gulf Stream carry the greenhouse gas eastward over the Atlantic Ocean.
Asia and the Himalayas: In this view of Asia, two things stand out: the major emissions sources of the industrialized Asian countries, and the natural barrier of the Himalayas. As carbon dioxide concentrations swirl and move eastward, the Himalayas - the crescent-shaped mountain range just north of India - redirect winds. This video shows Feb. 1, 2006 to Mar. 1, 2006 from the simulation.
African fires: While the previous movies showed regions of major man-made emissions, this close-up shows the emission of carbon dioxide - and carbon monoxide, the plumes of white - from fires in southern Africa. This video shows Aug. 1, 2006 to Sept. 1, 2006, a period of seasonal burning in this region.
C1 Patterns. Students identify similarities and differences in order to sort and classify natural objects and designed products. They identify patterns related to time, including simple rates of change and cycles, and to use these patterns to make predictions.
C2 Cause and Effect. Students routinely identify and test causal relationships and use these relationships to explain change. They understand events that occur together with regularity might or might not signify a cause and effect relationship
C5 Energy and Matter. Students learn matter is made of particles and energy can be transferred in various ways and between objects. Students observe the conservation of matter by tracking matter flows and cycles before and after processes and recognizing the total weight of substances does not change.
C1 Patterns. Students recognize that macroscopic patterns are related to the nature of microscopic and atomic-level structure. They identify patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships that provide information about natural and human designed systems. They use patterns to identify cause and effect relationships, and use graphs and charts to identify patterns in data.
C2 Cause and Effect. Students classify relationships as causal or correlational, and recognize that correlation does not necessarily imply causation. They use cause and effect relationships to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems. They also understand that phenomena may have more than one cause, and some cause and effect relationships in systems can only be described using probability.
C3 Scale Proportion and Quantity. Students observe time, space, and energy phenomena at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small. They understand phenomena observed at one scale may not be observable at another scale, and the function of natural and designed systems may change with scale. They use proportional relationships (e.g., speed as the ratio of distance traveled to time taken) to gather information about the magnitude of properties and processes. They represent scientific relationships through the use of algebraic expressions and equations
C4 Systems and System Models. Students can understand that systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems. They can use models to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems. They can also learn that models are limited in that they only represent certain aspects of the system under study.
C5 Energy and Matter. Students learn matter is conserved because atoms are conserved in physical and chemical processes. They also learn within a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter. Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion). The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.
C7 Stability and Change. Students explain stability and change in natural or designed systems by examining changes over time, and considering forces at different scales, including the atomic scale. Students learn changes in one part of a system might cause large changes in another part, systems in dynamic equilibrium are stable due to a balance of feedback mechanisms, and stability might be disturbed by either sudden events or gradual changes that accumulate over time
C1 Patterns. Students observe patterns in systems at different scales and cite patterns as empirical evidence for causality in supporting their explanations of phenomena. They recognize classifications or explanations used at one scale may not be useful or need revision using a different scale; thus requiring improved investigations and experiments. They use mathematical representations to identify certain patterns and analyze patterns of performance in order to re-engineer and improve a designed system.
C2 Cause and Effect. Students understand that empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and to make claims about specific causes and effects. They suggest cause and effect relationships to explain and predict behaviors in complex natural and designed systems. They also propose causal relationships by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system. They recognize changes in systems may have various causes that may not have equal effects.
C3 Scale Proportion and Quantity. Students understand the significance of a phenomenon is dependent on the scale, proportion, and quantity at which it occurs. They recognize patterns observable at one scale may not be observable or exist at other scales, and some systems can only be studied indirectly as they are too small, too large, too fast, or too slow to observe directly. Students use orders of magnitude to understand how a model at one scale relates to a model at another scale. They use algebraic thinking to examine scientific data and predict the effect of a change in one variable on another (e.g., linear growth vs. exponential growth).
C5 Energy and Matter. Students learn that the total amount of energy and matter in closed systems is conserved. They can describe changes of energy and matter in a system in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system. They also learn that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems. Energy drives the cycling of matter within and between systems. In nuclear processes, atoms are not conserved, but the total number of protons plus neutrons is conserved.
ESS3.A Natural Resources. Energy and fuels humans use are derived from natural sources and their use affects the environment. Some resources are renewable over time, others are not.
ESS3.C Human Impact on Earth systems. Societal activities have had major effects on the land, ocean, atmosphere, and even outer space. Societal activities can also help protect Earth’s resources and environments.
ESS3.D Global Climate Change. If Earth’s global mean temperature continues to rise, the lives of humans and other organisms will be affected in many different ways.
LS2.B Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems. Matter cycles between the air and soil and among organisms as they live and die.
PS3.D Energy in Chemical Process and Everyday Life. Energy can be “produced,” “used,” or “released” by converting stored energy. Plants capture energy from sunlight, which can later be used as fuel or food.
ESS3.A Natural Resources. Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for different resources, many of which are limited or not renewable. Resources are distributed unevenly around the planet as a result of past geologic processes
ESS3.C Human Impact on Earth systems. Human activities have altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging it, although changes to environments can have different impacts for different living things. Activities and technologies can be engineered to reduce people’s impacts on Earth.
ESS3.D Global Climate Change. Human activities affect global warming. Decisions to reduce the impact of global warming depend on understanding climate science, engineering capabilities, and social dynamics.
LS2.B Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems. The atoms that make up the organisms in an ecosystem are cycled repeatedly between the living and nonliving parts of the ecosystem. Food webs model how matter and energy are transferred among producers, consumers, and decomposers as the three groups interact within an ecosystem.
PS3.D Energy in Chemical Process and Everyday Life. Sunlight is captured by plants and used in a reaction to produce sugar molecules, which can be reversed by burning those molecules to release energy
ESS3.A Natural Resources. Resource availability has guided the development of human society and use of natural resources has associated costs, risks, and
ESS3.C Human Impact on Earth systems. Sustainability of human societies and the biodiversity that supports them requires responsible management of natural resources, including the development of technologies that produce less pollution and waste and that preclude ecosystem degradation.
ESS3.D Global Climate Change. Global climate models used to predict changes continue to be improved, although discoveries about the global climate system are ongoing and continually needed.
LS2.B Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems. Photosynthesis and cellular respiration provide most of the energy for life processes. Only a fraction of matter consumed at the lower level of a food web is transferred up, resulting in fewer organisms at higher levels. At each link in an ecosystem elements are combined in different ways and matter and energy are conserved. Photosynthesis and cellular respiration are key components of the global carbon cycle.
PS3.D Energy in Chemical Process and Everyday Life. Photosynthesis is the primary biological means of capturing radiation from the sun; energy cannot be destroyed, it can be converted to less useful forms.
In North America, notice how weather patterns affect carbon dioxide distribution in the atmosphere. Emissions in the U.S. Midwest and East Coast are carried east by the westerly winds to the Atlantic Ocean.
In Asia, major emissions in industrialized Asian countries are apparent and move eastward.
In Africa, plumes of white, carbon monoxide emissions, are seen from fires.