Search

Stay Connected

NOAA Research News

Carbon Dioxide at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory reaches new milestone: Tops 400 ppm
SuperUser Account
/ Categories: Press Release, Climate, 2013

Carbon Dioxide at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory reaches new milestone: Tops 400 ppm

On May 9, the daily mean concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since measurements began in 1958. Independent measurements made by both NOAA and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have been approaching this level during the past week. It marks an important milestone because Mauna Loa, as the oldest continuous carbon dioxide (CO2) measurement station in the world, is the primary global benchmark site for monitoring the increase of this potent heat-trapping gas.

Tsunami warning

Tsunami warning

Risk communication with simple signs such as this one are another improvement in the last 10 years. (NOAA)

Carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by fossil fuel burning and other human activities is the most significant greenhouse gas (GHG) contributing to climate change. Its concentration has increased every year since scientists started making measurements on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano more than five decades ago. The rate of increase has accelerated since the measurements started, from about 0.7 ppm per year in the late 1950s to 2.1 ppm per year during the last 10 years.

“That increase is not a surprise to scientists,” said NOAA senior scientist Pieter Tans, with the Global Monitoring Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. “The evidence is conclusive that the strong growth of global CO2 emissions from the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas is driving the acceleration.”

Before the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, global average CO2 was about 280 ppm. During the last 800,000 years, CO2 fluctuated between about 180 ppm during ice ages and 280 ppm during interglacial warm periods. Today’s rate of increase is more than 100 times faster than the increase that occurred when the last ice age ended.

1996 Post-tsunami Survey in Peru

1996 Post-tsunami Survey in Peru

Dr. Vasily Titov on site in Peru surveying water levels and other habitat following a tsunami. Courtesy of Vasily Titov, NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory.
It was researcher Charles David Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, who began measuring carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa in 1958, initiating now what is known as the “Keeling Curve.” His son, Ralph Keeling, also a geochemist at Scripps, has continued the Scripps measurement record since his father’s death in 2005.

“There’s no stopping CO2 from reaching 400 ppm,” said Ralph Keeling. “That’s now a done deal. But what happens from here on still matters to climate, and it’s still under our control. It mainly comes down to how much we continue to rely on fossil fuels for energy.”

NOAA scientists with the Global Monitoring Division have made around-the-clock measurements there since 1974. Having two programs independently measure the greenhouse gas provides confidence that the measurements are correct.

Moreover, similar increases of CO2 are seen all over the world by many international scientists. NOAA, for example, which runs a global, cooperative air sampling network, reported last year that all Arctic sites in its network reached 400 ppm for the first time. These high values were a prelude to what is now being observed at Mauna Loa, a site in the subtropics, this year. Sites in the Southern Hemisphere will follow during the next few years. The increase in the Northern Hemisphere is always a little ahead of the Southern Hemisphere because most of the emissions driving the CO2 increase take place in the north.

Once emitted, CO2 added to the atmosphere and oceans remains for thousands of years. Thus, climate changes forced by CO2 depend primarily on cumulative emissions, making it progressively more and more difficult to avoid further substantial climate change.

On the Web:

NOAA carbon dioxide data: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/weekly.html

Scripps Institution of Oceanography carbon dioxide data: http://www.keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/

NOAA’s Maua Loa Observatory: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/obop/mlo/

ANIMATION (carbon dioxide levels over 800,000 years): http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/history.html

IMAGES: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/Photo_Gallery/Field_Sites/MLO/


Previous Article The origins of cirrus: Earth’s highest clouds have dusty core
Next Article Mystery solved: "Extra” methane in LA's air traced to fossil-fuel sources
Print
43989

x

Popular Research News

Study: Reducing human-caused air pollution in North America & Europe brings surprise result: more hurricanes

Study: Reducing human-caused air pollution in North America & Europe brings surprise result: more hurricanes Read more

A new NOAA study published today in the journal Science Advances about four decades of tropical cyclones reveals the surprising result that reducing particulate air pollution in Europe and North America has contributed to an increase in the number of tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic basin and a decrease in the number of these storms in the Southern Hemisphere. The study also found that the growth of particulate pollution in Asia has contributed to fewer tropical cyclones in the western North Pacific basin. 

Greenhouse gas pollution trapped 49% more heat in 2021 than in 1990, NOAA finds

Greenhouse gas pollution trapped 49% more heat in 2021 than in 1990, NOAA finds Read more

The Annual Greenhouse Gas Index serves as a measure of global society's progress - or lack of progress - in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Projected increase in space travel may damage ozone layer

Projected increase in space travel may damage ozone layer Read more

Scientists from NOAA and The Aerospace Corp. modeled the climate response of the stratosphere to increased future emissions of black carbon from rockets burning kerosene fuel.

NOAA and Saildrone launch seven hurricane-tracking surface drones

NOAA and Saildrone launch seven hurricane-tracking surface drones Read more

In partnership with NOAA, Saildrone Inc. is deploying seven ocean drones to collect data from hurricanes during the 2022 hurricane season with the goal of improving hurricane forecasting.  For the first year, two saildrones will track hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.

Study validates accuracy of NOAA’s smoke forecasting model during the Camp Fire

Study validates accuracy of NOAA’s smoke forecasting model during the Camp Fire Read more

A research team led by scientists from the University of California Berkeley and NOAA found that HRRR-Smoke accurately predicted the intensification of smoke pollution from the Camp Fire.

RSS
«August 2022»
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
31123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031123
45678910

OAR HEADQUARTERS

Phone: 301-713-2458
Address: 1315 East-West Highway Silver Spring, MD 20910

Stay Connected

ABOUT US

Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) - or "NOAA Research" - provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with other organizational units of the NOAA, a bureau of the Department of Commerce, NOAA Research enables better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth. Our role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally, and globally.

CONTACT US

Can't Find What You Need?
Send Feedback
Copyright 2018 by NOAA Terms Of Use Privacy Statement
Back To Top