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article imageAnother climate milestone as Carbon dioxide level passes 411 ppm

By Karen Graham     Jun 7, 2018 in Environment
Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere exceeded 411 parts per million (ppm) in May, the highest monthly average ever recorded at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, home to the world’s longest continuous CO2 record.
Just one month ago, on May 4, Digital Journal reported that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have set a new and worrying record. For the first time in recorded history, levels of CO2 averaged higher than 410 parts per million (ppm) for the entire month of April.
And here we are, on June 7, and it's time to report the Earth has broken another record - Scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and NOAA announced today that carbon dioxide levels exceeded 411 parts per million (ppm) for the month of May.
However, there is more worrying news. Scientists have found the rate of CO2 increase is accelerating. Average CO2 levels have increased on average, 1.6 ppm per year in the 1980s and 1.5 ppm per year in the 1990s to 2.2 ppm per year during the last decade, points out Yale 360.
“Many of us had hoped to see the rise of CO2 slowing by now, but sadly that isn’t the case,” said Ralph Keeling, director of the University of California San Diego’s Scripps CO2 Program, which maintains the Mauna Loa record with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It could still happen in the next decade or so if renewables replace enough fossil fuels.”
Fossil fuel combustion as a driver of CO2 levels
Carbon dioxide is called a greenhouse gas (GHG) because of its ability to trap solar radiation and keep it confined to the atmosphere. It is the most abundant of the GHGs and is attributed to the burning of fossil fuels.
The planet's three most dangerous greenhouse gases are rising  and fossil fuels must be taxed t...
The planet's three most dangerous greenhouse gases are rising, and fossil fuels must be taxed to protect children from the costly turmoil of rising seas and extreme storms, says world-renowned climate scientist James Hansen
Oli Scarff, AFP/File
And even though carbon dioxide is invisible, odorless and tasteless, it's responsible for 63 percent of the warming attributable to all greenhouse gases, according to NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. This year, the average for May peaked at 411.31 ppm, according to Scripps researchers. NOAA’s reading was 411.25 for the month.
“CO2 levels are continuing to grow at an all-time record rate because emissions from coal, oil, and natural gas are also at record high levels,” Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, said in a statement. “Today’s emissions will still be trapping heat in the atmosphere thousands of years from now.”
The Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network measures the atmospheric distribution and trends of the three main long-term drivers of climate change, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), as well as carbon monoxide (CO) which is an important indicator of air pollution.
The reference network consists of in-situ measurements at observatories and tall towers  and air sam...
The reference network consists of in-situ measurements at observatories and tall towers, and air samples collected at global surface sites and aboard small aircraft.
Earth System Research Laboratory
The measurement program includes around the clock measurements at 4 baseline observatories and 8 tall towers, air samples collected by volunteers at more than 50 sites, and air samples collected regularly from small aircraft mostly in North America.
It is very important to know that the added CO2 does not disappear, but, as long as atmospheric CO2 keeps rising, a portion of it transfers each year from the atmosphere to the oceans and to plants on land. Since CO2 is an acid, the transfer to the oceans causes the surface oceans to acidify.
On May 4  at 12:46 p.m. HST  a column of robust  reddish-brown ash plume occurred after a magnitude ...
On May 4, at 12:46 p.m. HST, a column of robust, reddish-brown ash plume occurred after a magnitude 6.9 earthquake on the South Flank of Kīlauea.
Just a word about Kilauea volcano
The Mauna Loa observatory is situated more than 11,000 feet above sea level in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This location is ideal for researchers to sample air that has been well-mixed on its passage across the Pacific Ocean. The altitude also keeps local vegetation and pollution sources at a bare minimum.
As for the Kilauea volcano - It is 20 miles away from the observatory, and any influences from volcanic gases are very slight. But as a precaution, the small amount of gasses are screened out before daily readings are recorded. The air samples are then shipped to NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. for verification, as well as further analysis.
It may seem redundant, but independent measurements of CO2 at Mauna Loa are made by scientists with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory and Scripps Oceanography. This is actually a means of quality control and ensures the continuity of the record should one system or the other be unable to record data.
More about co2 levels, Mauna Loa observatory, Anthropogenic causes, Climate change, Kilauea Volcano