Supercomputer re-creates one of the most famous pictures of Earth

Digital Blue Marble demonstrates future of climate simulations


Fifty years ago today, astronauts aboard Apollo 17, NASA’s last crewed mission to the Moon, took an iconic photograph of our planet. The image became known as the Blue Marble—the first fully illuminated picture of Earth, in color, taken by a person.

Now, scientists have re-created that image (above) during a test run of a cutting-edge digital climate model. The model can simulate climatic phenomena, such as storms and ocean eddies, at 1-kilometer resolution, as much as 100 times sharper than typical global simulations.

To re-create the swirling winds of the Blue Marble—including a cyclone over the Indian Ocean—the researchers fed weather records from 1972 into the supercomputer-powered software. The resulting world captured distinctive features of the region, such as upwelling waters off the coast of Namibia and long, reedlike cloud coverage.

Experts say the stunt highlights the growing sophistication of high-resolution climate models. Those are expected to form the core of the European Union’s Destination Earth project, which aims to create a “digital twin” of Earth to better forecast extreme weather and guide preparation plans.

Support nonprofit science journalism

Help News from Science publish trustworthy, high-impact stories about research and the people who shape it. Please make a tax-deductible gift today.


Not Now

Thank you for reading News fromScience.

You have reached your limit of 3 free news stories in the past 30 days.

To gain unlimited access to News fromScience, pleaseLog inor subscribe to News from Science.

AAAS Members canLog infor unlimited access.

$2.99/Month$25/YearFrequently Asked Questions