A Sky For All Seasons

  • Released Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:52PM
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Globally, carbon dioxide levels remain on a steady, long-term rise. However, concentrations of the heat-trapping gas are distributed unevenly around the world and change with the seasons. NASA's ability to track these changes by satellite, first achieved in 2008, provides a new way to study the interaction between carbon dioxide and the vegetation that absorbs it from the atmosphere. As plant life begins to draw the greenhouse gas from the air each spring, carbon dioxide levels plunge. When plants go dormant in winter, levels start to rise. The visualization illustrates this relationship by layering NASA satellite data of carbon dioxide levels over a global map of vegetation growth from 2003 to 2006. Notice the cyclical changes in carbon dioxide levels in the Northern Hemisphere compared to the Southern Hemisphere. The significantly larger population and landmass north of the equator makes for both increased human-caused emissions and carbon dioxide absorption.

In mid-May, carbon dioxide levels have hit their annual peak before beginning a rapid plunge during the Northern Hemisphere spring and summer.

In mid-May, carbon dioxide levels have hit their annual peak before beginning a rapid plunge during the Northern Hemisphere spring and summer.

With most of North America, Europe and Asia swathed in green by early July, carbon dioxide levels have dropped significantly.

With most of North America, Europe and Asia swathed in green by early July, carbon dioxide levels have dropped significantly.

As most Northern Hemisphere vegetation has died back by November, carbon dioxide levels have bottomed out and will soon begin to rise.

As most Northern Hemisphere vegetation has died back by November, carbon dioxide levels have bottomed out and will soon begin to rise.

In late January, with Northern Hemisphere vegetation still dormant, carbon dioxide levels once again rise toward their May peak.

In late January, with Northern Hemisphere vegetation still dormant, carbon dioxide levels once again rise toward their May peak.

Until recently, carbon dioxide records have only been tracked by monitoring stations like this NOAA site at Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

Until recently, carbon dioxide records have only been tracked by monitoring stations like this NOAA site at Mauna Loa, Hawaii.

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Credits

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Mauna Loa image courtesy of NOAA's U.S. Climate Reference Network