global warming

California's massive methane leak


To illustrate how an interactive animation can help communicate a quantified yet invisible environmental challenge


We have produced an interactive animation to visualise and bring insight to the rate at which methane is being released from a gas leak in California

In Aliso Canyon in California, a gas leak is spewing methane into the air. On the 23rd of October 2015 the leak erupted at a natural gas storage facility near Los Angeles.  As of the time of writing (Jan 2016), this leak is still ongoing - at an enormous rate. We have created the interactive animation below to give insight as to the scale of that rate.

We used emissions rate data from here (report by California Air Resources Board), though we could potentially link this value to a live data feed.

We have used a figure of 84 for the CO2 global warming equivalent of methane (over a period of 20 years). This number was taken from a report published by the IPCC on Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing (chapter 8, page 714, table 8.7).

This visualisation is produced in your web browser so the quality e.g. the ‘look’ of the bubbles cannot be as sharp as in a pre-rendered animation. This also means that it may run a little slowly on some computers - switching to a different browser might help.


What does this visualisation show?

This visualisation is showing us accurate volumes of gas at (approximately) the actual rate at which they are being emitted. Each sphere represents 10 kg of gas. After 4 tonnes have been emitted the animation starts again from the beginning.


Why show Carbon Dioxide as well?

Methane is a powerful climate pollutant and greenhouse gas. It’s about 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This means that 1 kg of methane being emitted will have a similar effect on global warming as 84 kg of CO2. If you click the button at the top of the visualisation marked ‘Carbon Dioxide’, you will be able to see the CO2 equivalent emissions rate.


Where can I find out more?

Our friends at Environmental Defense Fund have published an informative article on the Aliso Canyon leak here.

Click here to see their aerial video showing the methane plume.

Below is their real-time methane counter which we really like.

Carbon Brief also have an excellent article and infographic here.


Other approaches

In the course of exploring different visual options we created some sketches in Google Earth.  Initial sketches were created with giant bubbles located at the methane leak site but these did not work as there is no scaling object or building.  Placing the bubbles in Los Angeles seemed the next best option but again the geography of the city does not help.  So these are included for interest, but are not considered finished images.


Social Media Use

Simple interactives with short Vine or GIF animations can get extensive social media attention.

Ozone campaign meets climate change


United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)


To communicate and celebrate 30 years of international effort in protecting the ozone layer.


An animation that shows the global warming potential of ozone depleting substances - very much greater than carbon dioxide.  The film also shows just how much greenhouse gas - 135 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent - the Vienna Convention has kept out of the atmosphere.  It turns out to be more than the Kyoto Protocol.

This animation is the final asset created for the digital campaign for UNEP.  The project included the design and production of:



A short animation and a set of still images give viewers a sense of scale for how much air there is in the atmosphere and how much of it is ozone.  More details here



An interactive / self-running globe that displays current ozone distribution and also celebrates each country’s ratification of the Vienna Convention. More details here




This interactive 2D map of the atmosphere allows users to explore the distribution of ozone for themselves. More details here


This 3D map of the ozone layer shows a 20 km x 20 km area of land (centered over the peak of Mount Everest) and all the air above it extending to an altitude of 100 km (the edge of space). More details here




A playful musical animation showing phytoplankton celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Convention with an underwater birthday party. More details here


An additional part of the campaign package was the graphic design and layout of the 2014 Synthesis Report. Download the report here.

The report was VERY well received. We got a lot of compliments not only on the content but also on the layout and readability. Thanks a million for your excellent work.

Professor A.R. Ravishankara, Report Lead Author
Departments of Chemistry and Atmospheric Science
Colorado State University



We designed and supplied original sculptures depicting the ozone layer in the atmosphere for the chair, co-chair and hosts of the Meeting of the Parties 2-4th November in Dubai.

Photo credit: IISD

Photo credit: IISD



In addition to the films and interactives Carbon Visuals provided posters and logos in six languages as well as outreach support and evaluation.

All images are available under Creative Commons licence to download on our Flickr page.

UN Precious Ozone webpage: