This Visualization of the World’s Carbon Emissions Is Chillingly Beautiful

A NASA simulation shows how carbon dioxide moves

Carbon Dioxide Sources From a High-Resolution Climate Model

What would it look like if you could see all of the world’s carbon emissions happening at one time? Though it is a bit scary—the more carbon emissions rise, the more global warming snowballs—it's suprisingly beautiful, too.

The visualization you see above was created by NASA’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, which works to maximize the impacts of the agency’s satellites. The GMAO creates visualizations like the ones above with satellite data to help climatologists and other specialists better understand the world around them. 

The swirls of carbon dioxide, though artfully displayed, are from real emissions data collected by NASA satellites in June 2006. In a release about the visualization, the GMAO writes that the simulation can help scientists watch how carbon emissions behave once in the atmosphere. 

Watch the map above for evidence of gigantic fires in Africa (where biomass burning is a common agricultural technique) and megacities in places like southeast Asia and southern California. You can see carbon dioxide swirl and swoop through the Earth’s atmosphere as emission levels rise and fall.

The visualization is certainly pretty, but watch long enough and its message will become all too clear: Carbon emissions’ effects are far from local. 

(h/t CityLab)

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