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.