CO2 Map, Orbiting Carbon Observatory (credit: NASA & JPL)
The Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory used data from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) to develop a model of how carbon dioxide (CO2) moves in the atmosphere. The 3-D visualization shows complex patterns as the gas increases, decreases, and moves around the globe over the course of a complete year, September 2014-2015.
According to the NASA announcement, "our visualization highlights the advances in our understanding of how much emitted carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere and how long it stays there, questions that will ultimately determine Earth's future climate."
About 50% of human-related CO2 emissions is absorbed by the land and oceans, ~50 percent remains in the atmosphere, ~25 percent is absorbed by vegetated landscapes, and ~25 percent is absorbed in the oceans. Questions remain regarding how much is absorbed by different ecosystems and if CO2 keep rising, will plants and the oceans continue absorbing the gas at current rates or reach a plateau. The new Carbon Observator data hopes to answer to these questions.
Lesley Ott, a member of the Goddard team said: "we need to understand the processes driving 'carbon flux', the exchange of CO2 among the atmosphere, the land, and the oceans. We are trying to build the tools needed to develop an accurate picture of what's happening in the atmosphere."
Remote-sensing satellites are valuable tools for environmental monitoring, climate change response planning, and as historical time-line records. Good data is critical in developing an unbiased scientific picture of the Earth's atmosphere, perhaps now more than ever.