CarbonTracker: Sliding Scale
DetailsPermalink to Details
- Added to the Catalog
- Available for
- Air: Chemistry
- People: Energy
- Carbon Dioxide
- Global Monitoring Laboratory
- Greenhouse Effect
- Greenhouse Gas
DescriptionPermalink to Description
"NOAA encourages science that adds benefit to society and the environment. CarbonTracker does both." said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, Ph.D., former undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. CarbonTracker is a system to keep track of carbon dioxide uptake and release at the Earth's surface over time. It was developed by the Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gases group at NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory. As a scientific tool, CarbonTracker has helped improve the understanding of carbon uptake and release from the land and oceans, and how those sources and sinks are responding to the changing climate, increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 (the CO2 fertilization effect), and human management of land and oceans. CarbonTracker relies on the long-term monitoring of atmospheric CO2 performed by the NOAA Global Monitoring Division and international partners.
This data set shows the distribution of carbon dioxide in the "free troposphere", which is the lower atmosphere below the tropopause, but above the surface-dominated planetary boundary layer. CO2 distributions are displayed for every day from 2000-2018. The large variations in CO2 seen here are caused by surface sources and sinks of CO2, coupled with transport of CO2 plumes by weather systems. The resulting patterns seen here are called "carbon weather".
White dots represent the times and locations of CO2 measurements from surface stations, ships, and aircraft from the more than 70 laboratories in 21 countries participating in the GLOBALVIEW+ program. These are the locations for which we know the mixing ratios of CO2 exactly. The rest of the globe is filled in by a computer model driven by our best knowledge of the surface sources and sinks (fossil fuel and biomass burning emissions, land biosphere and ocean uptake or release) of CO2 that are across the globe.
Plumes of CO2 can be seen moving across the globe, illustrating the importance of monitoring CO2 globally, not just locally. The large variations in CO2 concentration from season to season are due to the annual cycle of summertime green-up and autumn decay of land plants. During the winter season, plants and trees respire CO2 as they shed leaves and stop growing or decay, adding significant amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere. This process reverses during spring and summer, when plants have access to sufficient sunlight and grow leaves and flowers, or increase their size substantially and remove CO2 from the atmosphere. The summer green-up is quite visible in the movie: in July the northern hemisphere shows intense blue colors, especially over the mid-latitude regions where forests and crops take up CO2 vigorously. The large change in CO2 between the seasons caused by plant activity is sometimes referred to as the 'breathing' of the planet. In the tropics, intense red areas are visible especially during July, August and September. This is due to the burning of biomass. Some of this is natural, such as dry grasses on the savannas burning, but most of it is man-made as people burn fields to prepare them for another year of production, or burn forests to make way for new agricultural lands.
In this dataset, the color bar has a sliding scale. This means that the colors represent different CO2 values over time. For example, in the year 2000, the average global CO2 concentration was nearly 367 ppm, which shows up as light blue. As the global average increases in the visualization through December 2018, the color light blue changes value to depict 400 ppm, the global average at the end of 2014. The sliding scale dataset is best used to show the CO2 being moved around the Earth by weather patterns. This is different from CarbonTracker: Fixed Scale, which has a colorbar with a larger difference in values, a visualization that changes color more drastically, and is best used to show the overall growth in atmospheric CO2 concentration over time.
Both datasets show small white dots that depict the observation sites where glass flask atmospheric samples are taken worldwide. The observation dots are a layer that can be toggled on or off using the layers tab.
Find out more about NOAA CarbonTracker.
Next Generation Science StandardsPermalink to Next Generation Science Standards
Disciplinary Core IdeasPermalink to Disciplinary Core Ideas
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.A Natural Resources. Resource availability has guided the development of human society and use of natural resources has associated costs, risks, and benefits.
Notable FeaturesPermalink to Notable Features
- Seasonal variations in the level of CO2 over land
- Intense concentration of CO2 in the tropics due to biomass burning
- High levels of CO2 emitted from cities (best visible in January)
- Steady year-on-year increase of atmospheric CO2, as seen in the moving color scale
Data SourcePermalink to Data Source
NOAA/ESRL GMD Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gases group