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

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.

[Mr Costello & His Attractions]

94 thoughts on “This year’s (super) model: visualising atmospheric CO2”

  1. This shows the massive release of CO2 in the northern hemisphere and even though we appear a long way away it will affect us just the same as we are all on one planet. The UN climate change meeting in Paris is going to be a crucial decider as this will be the last chance to make any meaningful decisions. I have made a suggestion that we leave the big polluters out of he discussions as they are only there to disrupt the honest attempts of the majority.

    1. It shows nothing of the sort! It’s a simulation. It shows MODELLED CO2, not ACTUAL CO2.

      If this were useful as ‘reliable data’ that can then be used as evidence for manmade warming upon which policy decisions can be made, what’s to stop someone else from making lovely model simulations based on a different set of assumptions and fudge factors that ‘prove’ it completely wrong? It’ll be just one computer model simulation against another. What does REALITY say?

      [Link to µWatts snipped]

      1. Fone J. You are wrong about that. The quantities in the model are grounded in reality as Bob Bingam stated, the modelling merely simulates their dispersal patterns over time.

        1. The NASA press release states

          “Simulations like this, combined with data from observations, will help improve our understanding of both human emissions of carbon dioxide and natural fluxes across the globe.”

          which does seem to imply that this simulation isn’t based on observations, rather that it could be combined with them

          That’s just my understanding as a “vile and despicable” person though

          1. That’s why NASA themselves refer to it as a “simulation”. It’s a glorified artist’s impression. It’s not reality. If it were, they would call it observations, not simulations. People have been fooled into thinking it represents actual observations because it’s a pretty simulation with nice colours; they’ve been seduced by the cleverness of the ‘special effects’ that computer modelling is good for. WETA Workshop could do the same thing. The NASA name tag also helps sell it. But then what can you say about NASA these days? As one blogger said, NASA have progressed from manned space flight to unmanned to modelling. From there, it’ll probably be some kid with crayons.

            1. Don’t knock coloured crayons. Exploration Geophysicists used to markup their paper seismic sections with coloured crayons.

              Many an oil field has been found with their assistance

            2. FoneJ. The map is not a glorified artists impression, it is based on laws of physics and is the best that a simulation can achieve. The simulation doesn’t claim to be more than a simulation.Simulations are used throughout various areas of science to increase understanding or communicate processes. Weta wouldn’t have the scientific knowledge to do this kind of thing.

              You want to criticise NASA. NASA put a man on the moon just for starters. What have you done with your life? Have you won any nobel prizes lately?

          2. AndyS. I think its far more likely the map used actual CO2 quantities as a starting point, given we do actually know concentrations of CO2. The patterns are simulations.

            1. The simulation took 70+ days of computation time and used a smaller grid than most GCMs (according to the blurb)

              I don’t know where the CO2 concentrations were sourced from. We do have some satellite data showing fluxes but I thought Moana Loa was the only definitive ground station

            2. Yes I expect I could have found this out with a simple Google search, just as Beaker could have found out the question he asked without asking me.

              Maybe we should stop commenting on this blog since everything can be found out with Google

              Incidentally, it is the same Google that gave up on its RE<C project, but you seem to want to ignore that,

              Maybe you are all in denial or something

  2. I never appreciated how little mixing there is between hemispheres. Is the average CO2 concentration higher in the northern hemisphere or do the summers cancel out the winters? Does the northern hemisphere have more extreme temperatures because of the larger variation, after allowing for the continent effect?

  3. It pays to look at the color scale. Light blue is 381ppm and dark red is 387ppm. The color scale is selected to highlight the small but significant differences between parts of the atmosphere. The mixing between the hemisphere is quite good generally but small differences (about 1%) that are highlighted here show in a dramatic way the dynamics in the system caused by seasons and emissions alike. Note that the seasonal differences in CO2 concentrations are significant due to the northern hemispheric seasonal plant growth rhythm.

    1. The choice of colour scale is interesting because it is RGB from 381 to 387 then some pastel shades of purple after that. Given that we are told that CO2 levels have reached 400ppm, a red indicating a level of 387 is a little misleading, but I suppose it was chosen to give maximum contrast

      It is quite a cool visualisation though

      1. Let’s see, it could be one of two things:

        1) Those tricksy scientists are trying to pull the wool over our eyes again; or

        2) andy couldn’t be bothered to read the article properly, and missed the bit where it said the simulation was for the period May 2005 to June 2007, when CO2 concentrations were in the range 381 to 387ppm.

        I know which one my money’s on.

        1. I was wondering why you would have a colour map that had a light purple gradient above an RGB scale, that is all.

          I do colour maps as part of my job, so I think about these things.

          Weird, I, know.

          1. I also do a lot of work with colour palettes (I can tell you the exact RGB values of Confederate and Union army uniforms, for example), and I don’t find this palette in the slightest bit weird or misleading.

            The area of the scale covered by the blue-to-red spectrum covers the most frequent concentration, in the 380s ppm, because the global average at that time was in that range. However, the point of the visualisation is to show that there are localised peaks and troughs, so while the bulk of the globe is covered with blues, yellows and reds, the little hot-spots that spike into the 390s need a contrasty colour to show up.

            From an EM radiation point of view, having purple following red might seem odd, but from an RGB perspective it is quite a natural follow on, as it is just a shift in the blue channel. It’s not at all unusual to have purple after red – look at the rain radar, for example.

            1. Found this on another site – not original – but thought it highly relevant to the above discussion and amended as appropriate:

              Whenever some “skeptic” quotes you a document:

              1. Probably they have not read all of it and have merely skimmed for a headline or selective quote.

              2. Or the source is hopelessly compromised by either vested or commercial interest.

              3. Or it’s such a shrill piece of drek that it’s been thoroughly debunked by others already.

              4. Or their argument is so thin that you feel embarrassed to type out the blindly obvious rebuttal.

              5. Or it’s andy in which case all four cases above probably apply.

  4. In the colour scales I use for visualization, we use a palette that varies between min and max vales, and vales that lie outside the min and max values get clipped at those values.
    The min and max values are chosen to give the best visualization of the features you are trying to find, and this might be based on a statistical distribution of the data.

    1. It was already pointed out to you that this visualisation was for a period 2005 to 2007. They may already be other visualisations for different periods, earlier with less CO2 and later with more. Even if there are not and there are currently no plans to produce these, maintaining a scope to do so is prudent.
      If you produced lots of visualisations for a rising trend over different time periods and you clipped the scale for each the way you suggest, that would be silly.

        1. Now you are just being ridiculous. There’s no rules or laws around what colour scale you must use, or whether that scale must cater for future uses. All that matters is that the scale in question gives a good representation of the data at hand. This is typical of the crap you push, trying to manufacture controversy where there is none.

          1. Why Am I being ridiculous? mr Beaker suggested that clipping the colour scale at red was “silly”, with a view to future simulations.
            My response is that if you use the same colour scale for future simulations, then you will end up with a purple colour, which is a fact given the nature of the scale.

            If you reset the scale to use a sliding window then it doesn’t compare old simulations with new.

            Perhaps you could explain to me why this is “crap”

            1. Do you accept that 400ppm is irrelevant for this particular visualisation? If so, do you then take back your accusation that the colour scale is “misleading”?

  5. Andy is a classic troll in that he starts a long discussion about palettes of colour so that anyone looking at the site would get very bored and go away. He is most probably doing the same thing on ten or twenty different sites under a variety of names.i

  6. I Am not sure what is more tragic about this thread. Perhaps the fact that we can’t agree on anything at all, or perhaps that I managed to continue the discussion from various transit lounges on my way back from the UK to NZ

    I can assure everyone that I am not “trolling” the worlds blogs about colour palettes,

    That is probably all I have to say on the subject, you will be glad to hear.

        1. I was being sarcastic, andy. There’s more chance of the Republican Party enthusiastically calling for an end to fossil fuel use than of you ever admitting you are wrong.

          Okay, I take it by this last response you are still insisting that the colour scale is “misleading”, and that 400ppm should be used as the top of the red scale? A simple yes or no will suffice.

            1. Just goes to show the depths of your depravity. It’s a simple visualisation, and yet you are painting this as evil scientists trying to fool the world into believing their evil hoax. What a vile, despicable creature you are, andy.

            2. That is truly hilarious

              What a vile, despicable creature you are, andy.

              So I suggest that a palette might be a better choice than theirs and suddenly I am painting the scientists (if people that make a computer simulation are scientists) as “evil”

              How did that happen?

              I’ll have to remember to call people “vile and despicable” next time they suggest a colour palette that isn’t the default


            3. What I find funny CTG, is that you continue to construct strawmen arguments to paint me as some kind of “Dr Evil” character.

              A couple of Google Stanford PhDs have given up on the RE<C project, basically concluding that renewable energy doesn't work

              When old people are freezing to death in Europe in the not too distant future, and corporate parasites have destroyed the environment with their useless turbines and solar panels, it won't be me that is celebrating death and destruction

            4. “The banality of evil”

              Indeed Mr Beaker, you are just that.

              Your industry’s new creation above Loch Ness is the epitome of evil. A piece of environmental destruction unseen in modern times. a 67 turbine complex the size of Imverness, built on peat lands, the project will release more CO2 than it will ever “save”
              It will use more rock than the Berlin Wall in its construction, and will destroy one of Scotland’s most iconic pieces of scenery and most popular tourist destinations.

              This is the epitome of evil, not someone who disagrees about a colour palette

              Evil Beaker, pure evil

              Enjoy the infamy while it lasts.

            5. Banal – so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring
              synonyms: trite, hackneyed, clichéd, platitudinous, vapid, commonplace, ordinary, common, stock, conventional, stereotyped, predictable, overused, overdone, overworked, stale, worn out, time-worn, tired, threadbare, hoary, hack, unimaginative, unoriginal, derivative, uninspired, prosaic, dull, boring.
              While I am here, the Stronelairg Wind Farm, care to back up your claim that it ‘will release more CO2 than it will ever “save”’

            6. “while I am here…”

              Beaker unleashes a stream of content-free abuse and then expects me to engage in a discussion

              Talk to the hand, Beaker

            7. Why are you replying to me CTG?
              I am a “vile and depicable” person for daring to question a colour palette

              Keep pumping out your propaganda about renewables
              Google have proved it doesn’t work, but that doesn’t matter, as long as your crony parasites are sucking at the public teat to fund their worthless projects

              Incidentally, the same Google wants a $500 million bailout for its failed solar project.

            8. Of course Google used this old fashioned concept known as “mathematics” to come to their conclusions. This is an outdated bourgeois concept that has no place in the modern world

              Maybe a myracle will come along and save us from the wired and wicket problems that face us

            9. Hey CTG, whilst you are spraying this blog with random links that are completely irrelevant to the subject matter, please remember that I am a vile and despicable person that you are trolling.

              All bets are off. I might turn up at your house and try to sell you a new colour scheme from the Dulux catalogue.

  7. AndyS. For all I know your criticisms of the colours could be valid, I’m not a colour expert. Send your proposals to the people who created the map. However the map was clear to me, and visual graphics like this are a good communication tool.

    Otherwise you just come across as trying to distract attention from more important issues about CO2 and climate change.And they are certainly more important than the shades of red on a map. So say something significant.

      1. AndyS. Of course the simulation has scientific value, because it shows CO2 levels and distributions, and presents it in a nice graphic way. The public will understand graphics like this better than equations. My job involves an element of design, so I can also relate to this.

        A couple of people with Phd degrees criticising renewable energy is hardly conclusive proof. What are their degrees in? Solar energy panels are becoming so cheap it is inevitable they will have applications, even as a partial solution.

  8. CTG: “…the prospect of untold death and distruction (sic)…”??

    ‘Untold death and destruction’ from what exactly? The very high temperatures in Australia this week or the record low temperatures in the US last week?

    “US weather: all 50 states fall below freezing

    All 50 of America’s states recorded temperatures below freezing at some point on Tuesday and even the polar bear at Chicago zoo spent most of the day indoors, as bitterly cold air gripped the country…”

    Must be globull warming. I guess your carbon footprint causes everything that can happen to happen. So, in order to save the planet from everything that can happen, does happen, has always happened and will continue to happen, I suggest CTG do his bit and stop driving his car or using any other form of fossil-fuelled transport.

    1. “All 50 of America’s states recorded temperatures below freezing at some point on Tuesday and even the polar bear at Chicago zoo spent most of the day indoors, as bitterly cold air gripped the country…”

      Then again it could be late fall early winter.

      Last month October (mid fall) was the warmest on record. I know – I was there – and the days were 24 + – Even in the North.

      See I can cherry pick just like you!

      I suggest you do your bit and shut up! Too much hot air emanating from you.

      1. No you guys don’t cherry-pick anymore. LOL! You just pick absolutely everything and say it proves your case! Every heat wave, blizzard, flood and drought, more rain, less rain, doesn’t matter. You’ll use it and then claim it’s somehow evidence for globull warming.

        What could possibly falsify it? Which is in fact a fair question. What WOULD falsify it for you? Is there anything left?

        1. This question has been asked by many more intelligent people than you Joe, and has been answered many times over on this site and elsewhere. I see no point in repeating this work to someone as ideologically driven as you as it would be a complete waste of time. The fact that over 97% of climate scientists world wide have asked this same question and concluded that Global warming is occurring, and will continue into the foreseeable future, and that we caused it is obviously neither here nor there to you. So don’t expect to wind me up here Joe. This is my last comment to you. There are far more important considerations than amusing you. You are nothing other than a troll of very little brain.
          Please send better trolls

          1. Oh right, the old “97%” myth. That hoary old chestnut. Debunked a thousand times.

            Cute though. I guess you need SOMETHING in your toolbox since nothing else is going your way, especially temperatures.

        2. FoneJ. Increasing global temperatures have long been expected to change weather patterns, so more droughts or more intense cold periods, for example. The question is are we seeing this happening? There is some published science that says we are, for example by James Hansen. There is other recent science suggesting certain specific weather events can be attributed more directly to global warming. Not all weather events but some.

          Why don’t you do a simple google search because I found this material in approximately 10 seconds. What really hacks me off with people like you is we point this sort of thing out 100 times, and list authors of studies and how the mechanisms work, and you come back in total denial even that studies exist. I’m a polite chap, but sometimes I think you deserve all the abuse you get.

          1. Increasing global temperatures? There hasn’t been any global warming, such that it was, for eighteen years! And that’s while CO2 has increased. What does that tell you? Even the IPCC admit this much. But the real danger is that we are actually headed for the opposite!

            “While all the buzz about global warming has dominated headlines over recent years, the real issue is global cooling, something that will plague the earth for the next 30 years, author and climatologist John Casey said Friday on Newsmax TV’s “America’s Forum.”

            “It’s going to be dangerously cold, as certainly as it was in 1793-1830,” Casey said. “Right after the formation of our country, we had a disastrous cold climate on the planet and it’s coming back around.” (

            Also see here for more, and from a climatologist no less:

            That took 10 seconds too! It’s all out there Nigel, if you care to look. A few amusing characters on this blog obviously don’t want to know though because they’ve made up their minds regardless of the evidence that should be ringing alarm bells. Never mind. There’s no helping some because for them it’s a religious conviction.

            But you said I’m in denial that studies even exist. Ahhm no! The only thing I’m in ‘denial’ of is so-called ‘dangerous/catastrophic manmade global warming/climate change/climate disruption’ (or whatever the latest fashionable handle is), but note the words “manmade”. No one is in denial of natural climate change however because that’s what climate does. It changes. Without our help. And has done for four or five billion years.

            So I think you misunderstand the situation.

            1. Recycled Watts-tosh. Go back there. The resident troll here is perfectly capable of continuing the “attack”.

            2. Did you even look at the links? It’s Newsmax, not wattsupwiththat. Try again.

              You didn’t read anything did you? If you had, you’d have something useful to say like Nigel. At least he writes intelligently.

            3. FoneJ. Your “study” is just the opinion of some eccentric scientist, and is not published research in a scientific journal.

              Given that 2014 looks like it will be the hottest year globally,(according to NASA and NOAA) that should tell you something, especially as there is no el nino. Start thinking man.

    1. If a “myrical” happened and the whole world froze over, it would indeed solve a lot of problems.

      It would also create a few more. Like, for example, killing everyone

            1. Come on Joe, Bob is one of the good guys. He just wants to exterminate 400 million people. Nowt wrong with that.

              I, on the other hand, am a “vile and despicable” person for having an opinion on a colour palette

  9. Gareth do we have to put up with this idiot dribbling all over the comments section? There is no attempt by him to engage in honest debate what so ever, and all we get is the old idiotic drek. A complete and utter waste of time and space. And he makes the place look untidy!

  10. According to nigelj, 2014 “will be the hottest year globally”.

    Right. After the usual ‘adjustments’ are made to the thermometer record which covers a minuscule fraction of the planet’s surface and cannot therefore obtain a “global average” without someone in the back room filling in the blanks with a crayon. The satellite data, which covers most of the planet, tell a completely different story with both 1998 and 2010 significantly higher than 2014. So there’s not much time left for this year to meet your expectations based on satellite data which is more likely to be able to provide a “global average”.

    But even if you’re right, so what? You’re talking about hundredths of a degree per year, assuming no La Nina or El Nino interventions spoil the fun.

    So your proud boast that 2014 is “likely to be the hottest on record” is flawed from the start because it’s based entirely on very fragmentary data that’s adjusted and tweaked and padded out with fictitious data to fill in the huge blanks where there isn’t any.

    Think man!

    I wish you were right though. I’m all for a warmer world with more CO2 to enhance plant growth.

    1. FoneJ. I dont accept your rather wild claims about NASA Giss being inaccurate. The accuracy and wide scope of this record has been confirmed by the BEST study, and ironically this study was carried out by sceptics trying to disprove this record.

      The satellite only temperature records such as UAH and RSS have tended to show pretty flat temperatures since 1998, different from NASA Giss, and this has always been a mystery. A recent published study by Fuzon Weng and others has resolved this discrepancy, and found the satellite data has been underestimating recent temperatures so your claims are wrong.

      1. I suspect the real reason you believe the satellite data are ‘underestimating recent temperatures’ is the fact that they are diverging more and more from the climate models which, of course, you hold to be infallible like the IPCC. The divergence is starkly obvious in the graphic here:

        However, you are also referring to the Weng study. This found a tiny error due to cloud contamination, but it is tiny and has no effect on trend in the satellite data, ie., it doesn’t change the flat (or even slight negative trend that’s apparent since around 2002), to a positive one which is what is required/wanted/demanded/hoped for by the alarmists in order to justify the models; and it’s orders of magnitude smaller than the ever growing divergence with the climate models themselves.

        But that’s not all. Weng et al “restrict their analysis to 13 years (1998-2010) of data from one satellite, NOAA-15, and find a spurious cooling effect from cloud contamination in the middle latitudes, with little effect in the tropics. (They don’t state how they assume their result based upon 13 years, even if it was correct, can be applied to 35+ years of satellite data.”

        So the actual measured data covering most of the globe contradicts your boast that 2014 will be the hottest on record and it also shows that the models are utterly useless and should be dumped overboard along with the IPCC.

        1. Joe, these satellite temperature series that you set such store by are actually produced by using the same radiation transfer equations and code that climate models use.

          They don’t measure temperature directly, as thermometers do. They don’t measure surface temperatures, they measure lower troposphere. They don’t (can’t) measure temps in polar regions. They don’t work when there’s clouds and rain. The series are stitched together from different instruments on different satellites — homogenised, just like the historical surface temp record. In the case of the UAH series, Spencer and Christy have published something like 20 corrections to their series, and each one has increased the underlying trend.

          The satellite temp series are interesting and useful, but they are not the paragon of exactitude you seem to want to pretend.

          1. Oh, the weird fantasy world of the climate denier.

            The computer models that produce projections of dangerous global warming are spurious, GIGO nonsense, whereas the computer models that produce satellite temperature series are infallible.

            I wish I had the ability to believe two contradictory things at once.

        2. Fone J. The weng study provides one very good viable explanation, and you have nothing better.

          As Gareth points out satellite data is very suspect at best. When you have land based thermometers in a range of environments including land and ocean based, and generally showing a consistent trend, you do not need a Phd in atmospheric physics to see the obvious. You need to take your blinkers off.

          On temperature trends, these only measure surface temperatures not heat content. We have very reliable data that more heat energy is entering the earth system than leaving. More of this energy than usual is entering the oceans, and will be released in the next el nino event.

  11. Isn’t it time these two nincompoops took a rest?
    On the one hand we have andy trying to establish how many angels can dance on his pin head (or how many colours in the rainbow) – andy – we would just like to colour you gone, and on the other we have a constant stream of dreck from Joe regurgitated from a site to the far right of Faux News. (It’s been an eye opening and horrifying experience to be directed to a site that makes the US tea partyists look like an afternoon tea with the vicar.) Joe obviously lives in lala land, certainly not on Planet Earth (maybe nurse hasn’t been able to give him his meds yet Rob) and andy is – well just andy ……

    Anyway they are not helping to promote any meaningful discussion.

    1. Ahhh, spoken like a True Believer. I think you mean we “are not helping to promote meaningless dogma” or perhaps “doctrine” if you prefer the term with more religious connotations, since that’s what it is you are hell-bent on selling to the masses… the evidence-free doctrine and dogma of the Church of Globull Warming. In which case you would be correct.

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