John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Greenhouse gases swirl in abandon in this NASA video.
With the planet’s January-October period ranking as the warmest ever recorded, it’s looking more and more likely 2015 will go down as the hottest year in known history. (And by an “enormous margin,” notes the Capital Weather Gang.)
To help us understand what’s driving up the temperature, NASA has created this hypnotic visualization of two huge sources of atmospheric CO2: burning biomass and emissions from megacities, aka those with populations above 10 million. Based on a supercomputer’s climate simulation, the animation is perhaps a little too beautiful given its subject matter. Fire-caused emissions from agriculture and lightning-sparked wildfires swirl like actual flames in Africa, Australia, and South America, whereas urban CO2 pours like blue chimney-smoke from Southern California, the Northeast, China, the U.K., and elsewhere.
The space agency’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office explains:
Scientists are using climate models like this one—called GEOS-5 (Goddard Earth Observing Model, Version 5, created at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)—to better understand how carbon dioxide moves around Earth’s atmosphere and how carbon moves through Earth’s air, land, and ocean over time. Rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are driving Earth’s ongoing climate change.
This animation shows a five-day period in June 2006. The model is based on real emissions inventory data and is then set to run so that scientists can observe how the greenhouse gas behaves in the atmosphere once it has been emitted.
(Note the simulation repeats itself a few times in this video.)