Watch the Earth “breathe” in this captivating animation

German researchers have produced an animation that shows the movements of atmospheric carbon dioxide through the seasons.

Some archetypes definitely have a tough life. A tenacious old stereotype, for example, lends a rather particular sense of humor to our German friends; so when researchers from the very prestigious and equally serious Max Planck Institute (IMP) embarked on “a fun project”, there was reason to frown. But we must admit that this animation which shows the Earth in the process of “breathing” has something quite hypnotizing.

It is the fruit of the work – or rather the recreation – of the team of Markus Reichstein, director of the Biochemical Integration department at the IMP. To produce this funny visualization, they quickly compiled data from satellites as well as hundreds of weather stations spread all over the planet.

The result is a Virtual Earth that inflates, or on the contrary deflates locally according to circulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When the latter is loaded with carbon dioxide, the area begins to swell on the map. Conversely, it deflates when this trend is down.

A planet that “breathes”, but for how long?

The animation shows that certain places generally “collapse” during the summer, or at least during the warmer months. This corresponds to vegetated areas; indeed, with the approach of fine weather, many plants begin their growth cycle. They therefore happily pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; it is indeed a raw material essential to the photosynthesis of plants, and by extension to their survival and growth.

In winter, it’s just the opposite; these same areas then begin to “swell”. This indicates that the area produces more carbon dioxide than it consumes. A direct consequence of the inactivity of many plants, which go dormant or die as winter approaches.

This animation does not provide new information; this is a well-known seasonal dynamic that has already been widely documented in the scientific literature. On the other hand, it makes it possible to apprehend the phenomenon in a very intuitive way. This makes it possible, for example, to put into perspective the status of “lung of the planet” that is instinctively attributed to the Amazonian forest; it is far from being the only area to play this fundamental role as a carbon sink. It is in fact a dynamic on the scale of the entire planet.

This animation is therefore above all a subliminal message with content that could not be clearer : we absolutely need protect key carbon sinks, otherwise the climate situation will continue to deteriorate even faster. And there is urgency; as recently as last July, a study estimated that the Amazon rainforest was now a net producer of CO2.

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