Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Lava-Lamp Like NASA Visualization

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

By NASA/GSFC [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
NASA has created a computer simulation that shows how levels of CO2 fluctuate in the atmosphere on a yearly basis. This model shows in fine, nearly mesmerizing detail how CO2 moves through the atmosphere.

Finding patterns in CO2
Humans are pattern seekers. This simulation provides an opportunity to practice. You might first view it for general impressions and then be more purposeful or systematic, e.g., sampling the year by months chosen from quarters, etc. The cursor can be used to drag the button on the bar below the visualization to do that.

Some possible questions include:
Which hemisphere produces most of the CO2?

Do CO2 concentrations appear to vary over the course of a day?

Are there night and day differences?

What do you notice about seasonal changes?

We often think of CO2 in the atmosphere in terms of global consequences (climate). What evidence can you find about local emission sources and weather systems on a regional scale? Look for gradients of CO2 concentration--strands/bands that become thinner and thinner.

What are some questions you have about what you see here?

However, keep in mind when searching for a pattern(s) this very wise comment on patterns by theoretical physicist Richard Feynman: The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

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