This year’s (super) model: visualising atmospheric CO2

By Gareth Renowden 20/11/2014


Here’s a superb high resolution supercomputer visualisation from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center of the flows of CO2 in the atmosphere around the planet. Apart from being beautiful to look at, it shows the major sources of CO2 emissions in the northern hemisphere, and the seasonal change in CO2 levels as the northern hemisphere summer plant growth makes the planet “breathe in”. All the major features of the flow of weather around the planet are shown in great detail. The visualisation was produced by a new very high resolution global climate model called GEOS-5. The NASA press release explains:

…the visualisation 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 behaviour of the Earth’s atmosphere. This Nature Run simulates May 2005 to June 2007.

It is a very high resolution model:

The resolution of the model is approximately 64 times greater than that of typical global climate models. Most other models used for long-term, high-resolution climate simulations resolve climate variables such as temperatures, pressures, and winds on a horizontal grid consisting of boxes about 50 km wide. The Nature Run resolves these features on a horizontal grid consisting of boxes only 7 km wide.

With high resolution comes the need for a lot of computing power:

The Nature Run simulation was run on the NASA Center for Climate Simulation’s Discover supercomputer cluster at Goddard Space Flight Center. The simulation produced nearly four petabytes (million billion bytes) of data and required 75 days of dedicated computation to complete.

More info — including a closer look at some parts of the globe — here.

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