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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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To Visualize A Gas

To Visualize A Gas

CO2 map, Orbiting Carbon Observatory (credit: NASA & JPL)


The Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and California's Jet Propulsion Laboratory used data from the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) to develop a 3D model of how carbon dioxide (CO2) moves in the atmosphere. The NASA data visualization shows complex patterns as the gas increases, decreases, and moves around the globe during the course of a year.

According to the space agency's announcement, "the visualization highlights the advances in our understanding of how much emitted carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere and how long it stays there, questions that will ultimately determine Earth's future climate."

Plants and the oceans absorb approximately half of CO2 emissions with the remaining 50%  percent remaining in the atmosphere. Questions remain regarding how much is absorbed by different ecosystems on Earth and if CO2 keep rising, will plants and the oceans continue absorbing the gas at current rates or reach a plateau. The new Carbon Observatory data hopes to answer these questions.

Lesley Ott, a member of the Goddard team said: "we need to understand the processes driving 'carbon flux', the exchange of CO2 among the atmosphere, the land, and the oceans. We are trying to build the tools needed to develop an accurate picture of what's happening in the atmosphere."

Remote-sensing satellites are valuable tools for environmental monitoring, climate change resilience planning, and for historical time-line records. Good data is critical to develop an evidence-based picture of the atmosphere, perhaps now more than ever.


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