This NASA visualization tracks 365 days of the planet's CO2 emissions.

The gas that's got Earth in a chokehold can be beautiful—in a damning sort of way.

A supercomputer-generated visualization from NASA and Oregon State University reveals how CO2 emissions flow around the planet over the span of one year.

Using data from NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), a newly launched remote-sensing satellite that studies CO2's global movements, the visualization shows how though the vast majority of CO2 comes from the Northern Hemisphere's industrial centers, it doesn't stay there year-round. Piggybacking on the planet's weather systems, the gases billow from continent to continent, and in the springtime, are largely absorbed by new vegetation. Once winter rolls back around, plants die, and CO2 emissions roar back.

Narrated by the research meteorologist Bill Putman, the visualization is a useful reminder that greenhouse gases don't come in silos. Earlier this month, new research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) indicated that in 2015, CO2 emissions from the U.S. energy sector are on track to fall to their lowest levels since 1994, mostly thanks to a record number of coal plants shuttering around the country. But globally, CO2 emissions are still increasing, year after year—and regardless of where they originate, the entire planet is impacted.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    Here Is Everything Wrong With 'Bodega,' the Startup That Destroys Bodegas

    We made you a list.

  2. Equity

    What the New Urban Anchors Owe Their Cities

    Corporations like Google and Amazon reap the spoils of winner-take-all urbanism. Here’s how they can also bear greater responsibility.

  3. A LimeBike is pictured next to a Capital Bikeshare dock.
    Transportation

    Bike Share, Unplanned

    Three private bike-share companies are determined to shake up the streets of D.C. But what, exactly, are they trying to disrupt?

  4. Black and white West Charlotte High School students pose together in and around their school bus in 1972.
    Equity

    How America's Most Integrated School Segregated Again

    A new book tracks how a Charlotte, North Carolina, high school went from an integration success story to the city’s most isolated and impoverished school.

  5. Rescue crews and observers on top of the rubble from a collapsed building that fell in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City.
    Environment

    A Brigade of Architects and Engineers Rushed to Assess Earthquake Damage in Mexico City

    La Casa del Arquitecto became the headquarters for highly skilled urbanists looking to help and determine why some buildings suffered more spectacularly than others.