Animation maker

Earth inhales and exhales carbon in fascinating animation

The Earth is breathing in this cool animation from Markus Reichstein. (Image credit: Markus Reichstein / Creative Commons License)

the Earth appears to inhale and exhale in a new animation that shows how carbon is absorbed and released through the seasons.

Animated continents appear to deflate during summers, indicating the times and places where vegetation grows and plants suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When it is winter, the continents seem to swell, indicating that vegetation is dying and carbon is being released.

The changes are most striking at temperate latitudes such as continental Europe and North America, where seasonal differences are more pronounced. Equatorial regions do not change as much throughout the year, while some desert regions, being sparsely vegetated, do not store or release much carbon at all.

Data for the animation comes from satellite observations and hundreds of carbon monitoring stations around the world, said Markus Reichstein, director of the department of biogeochemical integration at the Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Germany, who released the animation. on Twitter January 6th.

“Visualization is really just a fun project,” Reichstein told Live Science.

What the animation ultimately shows is an important part of the carbon cycle, or the flow of carbon through the planet’s system. Carbon can be released into the atmosphere by the decomposition of organic matter and by the erosion of rocks containing carbon compounds; conversely, it can be taken up by the oceans and by plants, which use the carbon in the process of photosynthesis.

The importance of plants is clear in the animation, which shows places teeming with plants such as the Brazilian Amazon and the forests of Eastern Europe soaking up massive amounts of carbon in the southern and northern hemisphere summers, respectively. The ocean is not included in the animation because although the ocean is absorbing carbon, it does not show strong seasonal patterns, Reichstein said.

Climate change changes the pattern of vegetation growth around the world, Reichstein said, so the flow of carbon into and out of the biosphere also changes. These changes are too small to show up on a visualization like this, he said, but they will have different impacts in different places. For example, hotter and longer summers in the northern hemisphere can be good for plant growth, he said. But where warming is accompanied by a lack of precipitation — such as across much of the American West — climate change can limit plant growth.

“This carbon cycle and how it changes from month to month tells us a lot,” Reichstein said. But when it comes to societal impact, he said, the take-home message is that forests are essential to the health of the planet. Recent research reveals that the Amazon, one of the largest carbon sinks on the planet, has recently released more carbon each year than it absorbs through deforestation and forest fires, Live Science Reported.

“It basically shows how important it is to protect carbon sinks,” he said.

Originally posted on Live Science.