NASA Carbon Map Shows Which Countries are Polluting the World
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced last week that the global average carbon dioxide (CO2) levels reached the 400 parts per million (ppm) milestone in the spring of 2015.
It won't be long before global CO2 levels averaging above 400 ppm become a "permanent reality," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said.
Supercomputing power gives us a better understanding of carbon’s role in Earth’s climate. #EarthRightNow https://t.co/YsVeluRDrI— NASA (@NASA)1447884678.0
On the same day, the UK's Met Office announced that the global mean temperature at the Earth’s surface is set to reach one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels this year for the first time.
Thanks to NASA's first satellite tracking CO2—the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2—we have a visual representation of those dangerously high CO2 levels. In light of the upcoming COP21 Paris climate talks, NASA has released an animation of the world's carbon dioxide and how it moves through the atmosphere. The animation shows carbon dioxide emissions from two different sources: burning biomass and megacities. It covers five days in June 2006.
Scientists are using these climate models to "better understand how carbon dioxide moves around Earth’s atmosphere and how carbon moves through Earth’s air, land and ocean over time," NASA said. The red spots, such as those seen over Central Africa, indicate a significant amount of biomass being burned in forest fires, explained Tech Times. And the blue areas indicate emissions from megacities, such as those in East Asia, Western Europe and U.S. coasts. The purple, then, is the blending of those sources in the atmosphere.
About half of the CO2 emitted is absorbed by the land and the ocean, NASA scientist Lesley Ott said. "Otherwise you would have carbon building up in the atmosphere twice as fast as it does now," Ott added.
The ocean's absorb one-quarter of the atmosphere's CO2, according to Dr. David Suzuki, which, he said, is "bad news" for marine life as the oceans become more and more acidic. And now it appears the oceans may not be able to absorb as much CO2 in the future because of rising ocean temperatures and affected phytoplankton communities.
"These kinds of simulations will present Paris delegates with detailed information on where the world's carbon is coming from," The Independent reported. "If they want to take action, they will need to target the major sources, while the planet is still absorbing much of our emissions."
Watch the NASA animation here:
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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