The carbon cycle seen from space

Designed for Science On a Sphere, this video explains fast and slow carbon cycling on Earth. A banana is an example of fast, young carbon.

A chunk of coal is an example of old, slow carbon. Carbon dioxide and vegetation on land seen from space by satellites show the annual cycle: as plants grow during spring and summer they draw carbon dioxide out of the air during photosynthesis. When they die or go dormant during winter, carbon dioxide levels rise in the atmosphere. Burning fast or slow carbon to generate power or heat releases black carbon, also called soot which can be seen from space. In the Northern Hemisphere, black carbon mainly comes from burning fossil fuels. In the Southern Hemisphere, it mainly comes from clearing fields and forests.


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