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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How NASA's CO2 simulation could boost climate science

On top of a prediction that the world needs to invest 25 trillion dollars into future oil and gas production, we, more than ever, need science, such as NASA's CO2 simulation described here, to help us sort through our ability to, someday, balance the economy and environment.

How NASA's CO2 simulation could boost climate science

Scientists hope the model will explain phenomena such as “carbon flux” – the exchange of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere, land, and ocean.

by Joseph Dussault




Trapped atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to scientific consensus, has warmed global climates for decades. And now, you can watch it happen.

Using high-resolution emissions data, NASA has produced a 3D simulation of how CO2 moves through the atmosphere. Scientists hope the model will explain phenomena such as “carbon flux” – the exchange of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere, land, and ocean.

"We can't measure the flux directly at high resolution across the entire globe," Lesley Ott, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. "We are trying to build the tools needed to provide an accurate picture of what's happening in the atmosphere and translating that to an accurate picture of what's going on with the flux. There's still a long way to go, but this is a really important and necessary step in that chain of discoveries about carbon dioxide."

The model is the culmination of two years of data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2). The satellite, which launched in 2014, uses near-infrared spectrometers to track atmospheric carbon dioxide down to the molecule. Since then, OCO-2 has returned almost 100,000 CO2 estimates per day from all over the globe.

OCO-2 has been critical in the continued search for what’s known as the residual terrestrial sink. Only about half of fossil-fuel emissions are trapped in Earth’s atmosphere. Some 25 percent is taken up by the oceans, which means the rest must be taken up by land-based processes – a kind of “sink.”

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