Mists of time, missed

In mid-November NASA released an ultra-high-resolution computer model simulating how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere travels around the globe. It is visually stunning – all those colours and swirls and detail – see for yourself:

From the press release

“Scientists have made ground-based measurements of carbon dioxide for decades and in July NASA launched the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite to make global, space-based carbon observations. But the simulation – the product of a new computer model that is among the highest-resolution ever created – is the first to show in such fine detail how carbon dioxide actually moves through the atmosphere.”

 “NASA | A  year in the life of Earth’s CO2” – it happens to be 2006.

The carbon dioxide visualization was produced by a computer model called GEOS-5, […] the visualization is part of a simulation called a “Nature Run.” The Nature Run ingests real data on atmospheric conditions and the emission of greenhouse gases and both natural and man-made particulates. The model is then is left to run on its own and simulate the natural behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere. This Nature Run simulates May 2005 to June 2007.

Now, before we examine it in more detail, here’s a close up of the scale for the CO2.  Most of the action is over a narrow 5ppmv range.


Let’s look first at the beginning and end of the video – January and December.  Here they are side by side:

Screenshot 2014-12-31 17.45.58

Screenshot 2014-12-31 17.46.37





These are a year apart, but it is an annual cycle isn’t it?  Was there something special about the CO2 concentrations in either January or December 2006?  Should not January and December be in the same ball-park? Is is normal for there to be such variation? If not, why there was so little CO2 in the Arctic in December 2005/January 2006 compared to December 2006, or why so much in December 2006?  What would January 2007 look like?

I get it that this is modelling emissions and their circulation in the atmosphere.  I did think perhaps it was using sources and that sinks were not well factored in such that emissions were cumulative, however that is not the case.  The Arctic, in fact the whole Northern Hemisphere, blood-red at the end of April, is clear again by the end of June.

The Northern Hemisphere bias is also telling – but I guess there are tons of data for that. I suppose what I really want to know is how much is “measured CO2” and how much is “fossil fuel use calculated CO2 production”.

Note the model includes volcanic sources, pink-white isolated plumes in the ocean, for example in the South Sandwich Islands. Never mind volcanic CO2, I guess it will be handy for SO2 if we have another Pinatubo or Bardarbunga starts to rival Laki.

Screenshot 2014-12-31 17.48.50

As recently mentioned here at WUWT, the OCO-2 data is starting to become available. A recently released composite image has a different scale to the Nature Run model video> It spans 15ppm over a similar colour scale used by just 5ppm in the model, although at a higher level of CO2 reflecting the atmospheric increase in the intervening years:

scale combined

Global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from Oct. 1 through Nov. 11, as recorded by NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2. Carbon dioxide concentrations are highest above northern Australia, southern Africa and eastern Brazil. Preliminary analysis of the African data shows the high levels there are largely driven by the burning of savannas and forests. Elevated carbon dioxide can also be seen above industrialized Northern Hemisphere regions in China, Europe and North America. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from Oct. 1 through Nov. 11, as recorded by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2. Carbon dioxide concentrations are highest above northern Australia, southern Africa and eastern Brazil. Preliminary analysis of the African data shows the high levels there are largely driven by the burning of savannas and forests. Elevated carbon dioxide can also be seen above industrialized Northern Hemisphere regions in China, Europe and North America. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The production of CO2 in the S. American and Southern African regions is striking, as is the sink in the Southern Ocean. As a comparison, here are three images from Nature Run over the same time scale of months. The middle one of the three, transiently, is about right.

Screenshot 2014-12-31 17.47.45

Screenshot 2014-12-31 17.48.13

Screenshot 2014-12-31 17.48.34

Beautiful imagery, no doubt an achievement in modelling terms, now let’s get some of that real OCO-2 data into it.

You know what, it always seems that no matter how much we think we know, we forget how much we have yet to understand.  Only a couple of days ago, yet another NASA lab published a paper (press release; abstract paywalled here) which estimates that tropical forests absorb 1.4 billion out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.  This is considerably higher than previous estimates which assumed that boreal forests were the greater sink.  But note that word “estimates”, yes, more models, although in this case combined with real data.

“Until our analysis, no one had successfully completed a global reconciliation of information about carbon dioxide effects from the atmospheric, forestry and modeling communities,” said co-author Joshua Fisher of JPL. “It is incredible that all these different types of independent data sources start to converge on an answer.”

I guess that’s the future – models combined with real data.  Better than imagined data, but watch out for blending, mixing and homogenisation.

All model images credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/B. Putman
This entry was posted in CO2, Mapping and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Mists of time, missed

  1. John F. Hultquist says:


    Regarding the image “Averaged Carbon Dioxide ….” about 3 pages down and has a supplied caption under it.
    I saw this elsewhere and noted the small red spot over western Oregon & Washington. I don’t have a clue as to why this should be.

    In the caption there is: “ …concentrations are highest above northern Australia, southern Africa and eastern Brazil.

    The author is geographically challenged, and a poor wordsmith.
    “above northern Australia” should be Indonesia. Australia seems to be a pale green on my monitor.
    Maybe the author meant to say north of Australia, but why? The area over which the red color is has a name.
    Also, “eastern Brazil” is mentioned. The bright area appears above the Serra Do Cachimbo (Cachimbo Mountains). To me, eastern Brazil is that part near the Atlantic Ocean, about 2,000 – 2,500 km away.

    I think they got so excited about this – like a little Yorkie jumping up and down when the doorbell rings – they failed in its presentation.
    I await further developments.

  2. Verity Jones says:

    The sloppy naming is the usual ‘it won’t matter’ dumbing down of science for the plebs who won’t know any better, and an arm wave at sort of the right part of the world is enough.

    Very interested to read the opinion of geologist Martin Hovland that it could show volcanic out-gassing http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/01/02/nasas-new-orbiting-carbon-observatory-shows-potential-tectonically-induced-co2-input-from-the-ocean/#comment-1826681

  3. John F. Hultquist says:

    My first sentence about not having a clue – well, I do, actually. However, the resolution of the world view they have given us is insufficient to see or say much.
    The Cascade Volcanoes are hot – Mt. Hood in Oregon, Mt. Rainier in Washington are not commonly thought of in this context because Mt. St. Helens is in between and known to be a bit active.
    — On top of Mount Rainier Inside the Steam Vents —

    • Verity Jones says:

      Thinking of the CO2, those caves are confined spaces where CO2 build up is possible – scary thought.

      When you said you hadn’t a clue… well my first thought was Mt Hood, etc.

  4. PeterMG says:

    Happy new year Verity. I find it amusing that right from the get-go we are able to pickup on the sloppiness of the reporting of this Satellites findings. But that is only to be expected as no matter what this satellite finds there will be spin put on it to ensure it fits with the narrative of AGW and its derivatives.

    Two things bother me about what this satellite is doing. One is there is no chemical analysis to back up what this satellite reads with its sensors. So we are having to accept without any real verification its findings are correct. Secondly what is it measuring and at what altitude and can we reliably extrapolate those findings down to where the bulk of the CO2 is to be found? Am I being picky; you bet because we have be duped so many times over the last 50 years and not just in climate science.

    The appalling state of climate science has bought together a whole range of people from differing backgrounds to fight what they see as a corruption of science that has resulted in ruinous political policies. However for some of us who have always followed science it has lead us to look into other branches of science and unfortunately what we find is more of the same.

    The recent probes to comets are a classic example of our technology allowing us to go and take a close look at 2 comets. The “consensus” or “settled science” view of a comet is that it is a primordial left over from “creation” of the solar system made up of dirty ice. Two probes later and comets look like they are made of rock the same as an asteroid and that the tails we see when the comet is close to the sun are electrical discharges; Oh dear back to the drawing board I think in a big way.

    These findings and many others that our technology is providing for us are being ignored or brushed aside, but they do call into question our understanding of the universe at the most fundamental level. If we have things wrong at that level then much of what we assume in other branches of science are also wrong or flawed. This is why I think the CO2 satellite is meaningless as we have no hope of coming to the right conclusion on what it is telling us because science is in the mode of trying to prove its right, and not in the mode of discovery.

    • Verity Jones says:

      Careful, Peter, we don’t want you sounding like a conspiracy theorist 😉
      The instrumentation is standard science, modified for satellite. It is measuring the full thickness of the atmosphere between the instrument and where it is pointed. What it does and how, including validation, is quite well described on the JPL pages here: http://oco.jpl.nasa.gov/science/

      • PeterMG says:

        Maybe I come across as a bit conspiratorial, but other than in climate science (where there are conspiracies galore in and out of the science) I think money has distorted fact and sloppy work perpetuates this. Just look at this from the Rosetta mission Even after landing on the comet 510 million miles away (an amazing technological success) surely the shape of it must get their grey cells going. It just can’t be primordial ice. How would it have a layer of “cigarette like” ash on the surface, and how is the surface so hard?. Its rock and looks just like an asteroid, because it is made of the same stuff.

        My real point is for science they have lost me as a disciple, because they are ignoring new data and facts. Because Cosmology is so far off track it distorts our view of everything else. If the true nature of the earth and the Sun was understood, the absurd notion of man destroying our environment would hold no sway what so ever.

        But I do believe that within the next few years all that mainstream science believes about cosmology will be out the door. Perhaps then when we measure CO2 in the atmosphere we are asking entirely different questions, not trying to prove how bad humans are by putting a tiny amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and such as small amount that we have no means of properly quantifying it.

      • Verity Jones says:

        Well now, if I stop and think about ice on Earth, and how ice formed in space might differ, I can come up with some reasonable explanations.

        First off, ice on Earth will have air dissolved in it, which water and ice in space will not. Add to that the temperature, and ice could get very hard.

        A quick search found this: http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FPOL%2FPOL4_31%2FS003224740004239Xa.pdf&code=58b532afb3a6f89a215d621ee092fd38 which reveals ice on Earth with a hardness of 6 on the Mohs scale. Quartz is 7.

        Now imagine that very fine rock dust is distributed in the ice. What happens to ice in very dry extremes (even if very cold)? it sublimates. So over hundreds of thousands of years a layer several metres thick could have evaporated to leave a layer of very fine, loose dust. Ash-like? why not.

        I’m not saying comets are not rocky, just that ice and dust as described make sense to me, rock or not.

  5. gymnosperm says:

    Indeed the future. In the present they labor under the misconception that interpolating data is “modeling”.

  6. gallopingcamel says:

    Murry Salby has a different perspective on the gyrations of CO2:

  7. ArndB says:

    Hi Verity, kindly allow me to address your remark (2nd last paragraph) : “You know what, it always seems that no matter how much we think we know, we forget how much we have yet to understand.” and reference to “brilliant images” of our blue-planet with an

    Extract from a 1994 Essay “BACK TO WATER – CHEERS” :
    …….”Thales of Miletus (640-546 B.C.), the earliest philosopher and considered to be one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece, called water the fundamental element of all things. As this thesis was only preserved for several hundred years by oral tradition before being written down by Aristotle, Thales’ thoughts fit well into the picture of Gaia and Pontus. A mother born in the depths of the universe, aged, wrinkled but still alive, as shown by volcanic activities, and a son in his best years, strong, dominant and the source of life on earth.
    More than 2000 years later the poet Johann-Wolfgang v. Goethe (1749-1832) gave Thales a voice in his drama, Faust II:
    __Everything comes from water!!
    __Everything is maintained through water!
    __Ocean, give us your eternal power.

    Goethe, known for his interest in the young discipline of modern science, never lived by the sea. The Mediterranean was the only sea he ever saw. While 20,000 people from all over the world flew across the oceans to the Earth Summit in Rio, Goethe only crossed the sea from Neales to Palermo in 1787. A bit seasick, he stayed in bed enjoying the unfamiliar environment as he felt relaxed and wrote in his diary “Italian Voyage”:
    __Until one has experienced the sea around one,
    __one has no idea of world and its relation to the world.
    He himself was delighted by this ‘simple but great’ line and mentions that it changed his thinking. The foundations for the dramatic figure Thales in Faust II, finished 40 years later, were laid. At the same time, global average temperatures fell dramatically, something which Goethe called the Cold Epoch.”…..
    Full text: http://www.whatisclimate.com/1994-LOS-back-to-water-cheers.html
    Published in in ‘L.O.S. Lieder’ of the Law of the Sea Institute, William S. Richardson School of Law; University of Hawaii, #33 Vol. 6, No. 1, April. 1994.
    Happy New Year!

  8. Bloke down the pub says:

    You didn’t show the page on the model run where they say ‘send more money’.

  9. Hugh says:

    Nice comparison between the model and the measurement. I hope Nasa keeps its integrity when compiling OCO-2 results.

    What I suspect is that the measurement shows is a huge CO2 leak from China. Lets see.

  10. Group of Physicists says:

    [Snip] Doug Cotton – you still can’t resist.

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