Source: Paulo Penteado, NASA/JPL-Caltech
Published: June 6, 2022

This animation shows a time series of the global carbon monoxide distribution observed by AIRS. The maps show strong enhancements associated with biomass burning, particularly in the tropics in austral spring and at high latitudes in northern hemisphere spring and summer. Carbon monoxide is also associated with burning of fossil fuels. The time series on the lower panel shows the seasonal cycle in carbon monoxide for the 40-50N latitude band, as well as an overall decrease in carbon monoxide in the northern hemisphere over the 20 year AIRS record, associated with reductions in anthropogenic pollution in developed countries over that time.

Carbon monoxide is perhaps best known for the lethal effects it can have in homes with faulty appliances and poor ventilation. However, the importance of carbon monoxide (CO) extends well beyond the indoor environment. CO also contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone, another air pollutant with unhealthy effects. Also, while carbon monoxide is not a greenhouse gas, its presence affects the abundance of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. Major sources of CO include burning of fossil fuels and biomass burning (including wildfires and fires set by humans to clear land).The lifetime of CO in the atmosphere is about a month. It persists long enough to be transported long distances by winds, but not long enough to mix evenly throughout the atmospheres. Therefore, we can see plumes of CO associated with strong sources being transported across the globe.