Wednesday, February 07, 2024

A Year of CO2

The Washington Post has visualized how carbon dioxide builds up in the Earth's atmosphere over the course of one year. Using an interactive globe the Post has animated 12 months worth of atmospheric CO2 around the world.

The interactive globe in Watch the Earth breathe for one year uses data from NASA satellites and ground measuring stations to show how CO2 accumulated around the world over the course of 2021. The globe identifies four different types of contributor to atmospheric CO2: the burning of fossil fuels, fires, land ecosystems and the ocean.

As you scroll through the Post's article the globe rotates to highlight significant areas of atmospheric CO2. For example the Post highlights how the burning of fossil fuels in China contributes massive amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere. In Africa fires are a large contributor to atmospheric CO2. The globe is interactive which means you can explore the visualization for yourself to see where and when atmospheric CO2 pollution was worst during 2021.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher now than it has been at any time in the last 2.6 million years. However some CO2 is absorbed by plants, especially when they grow in spring and summer. The European Space Agency's Climate from Space visualization explains what is called the Fast Carbon Cycle.

The ESA visualization of the fast carbon cycle helps to explain why the Washington Post's visualization shows a huge peak in atmospheric CO2 at the end of the northern winter, 'before rapidly-growing plants start absorbing carbon dioxide again in the spring.' However despite this seasonal cycle the ESA is keen to point out that 'there is a clear increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide from year to year.'

No comments: