NASA supercomputer creates hypnotic visual of Earth’s CO2



Who knew computer models could be so mesmerizing?

The GIF above comes from a NASA video, after scientists at the Goddard Space Center created a visualization of how carbon dioxide moves through Earth’s atmosphere.


The model, known as “Nature Run,” takes atmospheric data related to greenhouse gas emissions and then simulates the natural behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere. Created with NASA’s GEOS-5 supercomputer, the model is among the highest-resolution viewpoints ever created. NASA said Nature Run has 64 times greater resolution than most global climate models.

“While researchers working on [Observing System Simulation Experiments] have had to rely on regional models to provide such high-resolution Nature Run simulations in the past, this global simulation now provides a new source of experimentation in a comprehensive global context,” NASA scientist Bill Putman, who was the lead on the project, said in a release.

The model, which simulates May 2005 to June 2007, shows how carbon dioxide moves across the world from its initial source. In the visual above, Putman describes how plants in the Northern Hemisphere absorb a large portion of CO2 during the spring months, as well as the introduction of carbon monoxide into the atmosphere from fires in Africa and South America.

NASA plans on combining the computer models with observations made by the agency’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 atmospheric satellites in order to better understand what drives large concentrations of carbon dioxide.


Researchers have been testing Nature Run for several years, but they presented their first full look at the models during the SC14 supercomputer conference in New Orleans this week.

“We’re very excited to share this revolutionary dataset with the modeling and data assimilation community and we hope the comprehensiveness of this product and its ground-breaking resolution will provide a platform for research and discovery throughout the Earth science community,” Putman said.

For a closer look at the model, check out the videos below.


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