Carbon Dioxide Levels Increase at Record Pace

Mauna Loa observatory records highest-ever annual jump
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2024 9:44 AM CDT
For CO2 Levels, an Unwanted Milestone
This 2019 photo shows the Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory, high atop Hawaii's largest mountain.   (Susan Cobb/NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory via AP, File)

The Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii has been measuring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for more than six decades, and it just recorded the biggest annual increase on record.

  • The jump: The March reading at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration lab was 4.7 parts per million higher than last March, breaking the previous record annual jump of 4.1ppm in June 2016, reports the Times of San Diego.
  • Another record: From January through April, concentrations of the heat-trapping gas rose faster than in the first four months of any previous year, per the Washington Post. The newspaper characterizes all of the above as an "an ominous sign about the pace of global warming."

  • Factors: This year's El Nino played a role, just as the periodic weather pattern did in the last annual record jump, notes the Guardian. So while the rate of the increase will likely decline, that isn't much comfort to Ralph Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego, which tracks the Mauna Loa data. "We sadly continue to break records in the CO2 rise rate," he tells the Times. "The ultimate reason is continued global growth in the consumption of fossil fuels."
  • Big picture: The new reading puts the level of carbon dioxide at 426ppm, which is more than 50% higher than preindustrial levels. The level was 313ppm when Mauna made its first recording in 1958. "Not only is CO2 still rising in the atmosphere—it's increasing faster and faster," NOAA climate scientist Arlyn Andrews tells the Post.
(It was a big deal when the level cracked 400ppm for the first time in 2013.)

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