A NASA supercomputer model provides a new portrait of a greenhouse gas.
Carbon dioxide is the key driver of global warming, however, despite its significance, much remains unknown about the pathways it takes from emission source to the atmosphere or carbon reservoirs such as oceans and forests. Using a NASA supercomputer model called GEOS-5, scientists created a visualization that simulates how the greenhouse gas travels through Earth’s atmosphere over the course of a year. The model run produced nearly four petabytes (million billion bytes) of data and required 75 days of dedicated computation to complete. In addition to providing a striking look at the movements of the invisible gas as it is transported by winds across the globe, the visualization illustrates differences in carbon dioxide levels in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres and distinct swings in global carbon dioxide concentrations as the growth cycle of plants and trees changes with the seasons. Watch the video for a tour of the visualization.