Terrifying NASA Video Shows How Carbon Emissions Are Engulfing the World
The space agency has released a video of high-resolution imagery documenting carbon emissions released over an entire year. The result is what looks like the world’s biggest storm stretching the length of the northern hemisphere.
The video is the first time scientists have been able to see in fine detail how carbon dioxide moves through the atmosphere, showing the source of greenhouse emissions and their destination.
It’s mesmerizing and scary. The large, swirling, cloud-like plumes grow and spread across the globe over an entire seasonal cycle, showing just how far C02 emissions can spread.
As the time-lapsed animation rolls through the year, the differences between spring, summer, fall, and winter are obvious—especially in the northern hemisphere. As the plant-growing season peaks in late spring and summer, the dark red plumes that signify the worst concentrations of carbon dioxide dissipate.
But as plant growth levels off in fall and winter, the dark plumes creep back up as humans spew carbon into the atmosphere from power plants, factories, and cars.
Bill Putman, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, narrates the three-minute video and explains what the terrifying dark reds really mean.
“As summer transitions to fall and plant photosynthesis decreases, carbon dioxide begins to accumulate in the atmosphere,” Putman says. “Although this change is expected, we’re seeing higher concentrations of carbon dioxide accumulate in the atmosphere each year.” That, in turn, is contributing to the long-term trend of rising global temperatures.
So what else does the map show? For starters, the world’s top three emitters—China, the U.S., and Europe—are easy to spot. Large red-tinged tails swirling above the areas indicate the highest concentrations of carbon.
The video also shows how wind plays a key role in pushing carbon around the world, and how emissions levels can change rapidly because of weather patterns.
“The dispersion of carbon dioxide is controlled by the large-scale weather patterns within the global circulation,” Putman says.
The released video portrays carbon emissions in 2006. Given that emissions have only increased since then, the current situation is even more dire.
In the future, the computer modeling data can help scientists better determine the location of carbon sources and sinks.