According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “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.”
The Mauna Loa Observatory is a research facility in Hawaii and has, since the 1950s, been a good place to monitor atmospheric data activity due to its undisturbed air, remote location, and minimal influences of vegetation and human activity. Used by the NOAA, as well as the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) and Global Monitoring System (GMS), the facility is the oldest continuous carbon dioxide measuring station in the world.
Scientists had noted the upward climb of CO2 in the last five decades, and 400 ppm marks a record and a new benchmark.
According to Senior Scientist Pieter Tans, who works in the Global Monitoring Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory:
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.
Similar readings are seen in other parts of the world from NOAA’s cooperative air-sampling network. For instance, last year all the network’s Arctic stations had readings of 400 ppm for the first time.
Ralph Keeling, a geochemist at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, which independently reached the same measurement of 400 ppm at Mauna Loa, said:
There’s no stopping CO2 from reaching 400 ppm. 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.
CO2 that reaches the oceans and atmosphere remains for thousands of years.
To see an animated graph showing the increase of carbon dioxide from 800,000 years ago to today, please click here.
Previously published in May 2013 at BCRainforest.com