Science

April's Carbon dioxide levels had the highest average in recorded history

April's Carbon dioxide levels had the highest average in recorded history”

Carbon dioxide - the gas scientists say is most responsible for global warming - reached its highest level in recorded history last month, at 410 parts per million.

Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe said about the milestone on Twitter, "It's as if we discovered that something we eat every day is causing our body to run a fever and develop all kinds of harmful symptoms - and instead of cutting back, we right keep on eating it, more and more". It's also a 30 per cent increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the global atmosphere since the Keeling Curve began in 1958.

CO2 levels were around 280 parts per million prior to the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s, when large amounts of greenhouse gases began to be released by burning fossil fuels. Before the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide levels never exceeded 300 ppm in 800,000 years despite fluctuating throughout the different millennia. As for the source of the carbon dioxide, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies climate scientist Kate Marvel told Mashable that it all boils down to the process of combustion through the burning of fossil fuels, resulting in higher concentrations of the gas being generated.

Ralph Keeling and his late father Charles David Keeling have kept carbon dioxide (CO2) measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii since 1958.

Passing 410 ppm "is important because it marks another milestone in the upward march of CO2", said Ralph Keeling, Scripps Carbon Project leader at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. And we just hit another worrying threshold this April: levels averaged higher than 410 ppm throughout the whole month for the first time.

It's the first time in recorded history that the carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere averaged over 410 parts per million (ppm). "It's essentially as simple as that".

The Keeling Curve draws its name from its creator and the shape of its dataset, a seasonally seesawing trend of steadily rising Carbon dioxide readings that exceeded 400 ppm in air for the first time in human history in 2013.

Carbon dioxide is called a "greenhouse gas" because of its ability to trap solar radiation in the Earth's atmosphere like a blanket and heat up the planet. For its part, NASA shows the most recent Carbon dioxide measurement at 408ppm taken in March 2018. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases are enhancing the planet's natural "greenhouse effect". It is based on continuous measurements taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii that began under the supervision of Charles David Keeling.

"We probably have to go back 5 to 10 million years at least to find a time when Carbon dioxide levels were naturally that high", Michael Mann, climate scientist from Penn State University, said.



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