The Global Pulse of Carbon Dioxide in the 21st Century

William Putman, Leslie Ott, Steven Pawson

This simulation, produced by the Goddard Earth Observing System Model Version 5 (GEOS-5) at 12.5-km resolution, shows daily column-integrated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2013. The model ingested reanalysis data from MERRA-2 to represent the actual meteorological conditions for the same time period. The color bar is not assigned fixed values. Instead, it moves with the global mean concentration, which is recomputed daily and displayed in the upper right. The colors represent variations of 7.5 parts per million (ppm) above [red] and below [blue] the daily global mean. The line plot shows monthly mean surface carbon dioxide concentrations in Mauna Loa, Hawaii observed at the Mauna Loa Observatory [white line] and from GEOS-5 [yellow line]. Differences between these two curves are primarily driven by differences in the resolved surface elevation. 

A larger version of this animation is available for download. Links: MPEG-4 format, OGG format

The two most notable features of this visualization are the seasonal variations and the interannual increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, global average carbon dioxide concentrations increased from 369.67 ppm in December 2000 (near the start of the visualization) to 396.81 ppm in December 2013 (near the end of the visualization). In November 2015, the global average concentration was 400.16 ppm. Year-to-year increases have been occurring now for decades, due largely to the addition of carbon dioxide from human activities.

This simulation used fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions from the Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research, version 4.2 (EDGAR). Because emissions for years 2011 through 2014 are not yet available from EDGAR, 2010 emissions were assumed. Biomass burning emissions of carbon dioxide were provided by NASA's Quick Fire Emissions Dataset (QFED) using MODIS fire radiative power observations. Both biomass burning and fossil fuel emissions were provided at 0.1 degree resolution. Ocean-atmosphere carbon fluxes were produced by NASA's Ocean Biogeochemical Model (NOBM) at 1 degree resolution. Estimates of net ecosystem exchange were derived from the Carnegie-Ames-Stanford Approach-Global Fire Emissions Database (CASA-GFED; Ott et al., 2015) model. These emissions were spatially disaggregated from 0.5 degree to 0.1 degree using MODIS enhanced vegetation index (EVI) observations. Because CASA-GFED produces a neutral biosphere flux, drawdown was enhanced by 1-5% per year in order to match the observed atmospheric growth rates documented in the Global Carbon Project (GCP).


Ott, L., S. Pawson, J. Collatz, W. Gregg, D. Menemenlis, H. Brix, C. Rousseaux, K. Bowman, J. Liu, A. Eldering, M. Gunson, and S. R. Kawa, 2015. Assessing the magnitude of CO2 flux uncertainty in atmospheric CO2 records using products from NASA's Carbon Monitoring Flux Pilot Project. J. Geophys. Res. - Atmos, 120, 734-665. doi: 10.1002/2014JD022411.

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