This animation is based on a supercomputer climate simulation that shows two different sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide — fires (biomass burning) and massive urban centers known as megacities. Scientists are using climate models like this one — called GEOS-5 (Goddard Earth Observing Model, Version 5, created at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center) — to better understand how carbon dioxide moves around Earth’s atmosphere and how carbon moves through Earth’s air, land and ocean over time. Rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are driving Earth’s ongoing climate change. This animation shows a five-day period in June 2006. The model is based on real emissions inventory data and is then set to run so that scientists can observe how the greenhouse gas behaves in the atmosphere once it has been emitted.
On Monday, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii told Climate Central that June would be be the third month in a row where, for the entire month, average levels of carbon dioxide were above 400 parts per million ppm. In other words, that’s the longest time in recorded history that this much carbon dioxide has been in the atmosphere.The finding is troubling to climate scientists, several of whom told ThinkProgress on Monday that the levels are a reminder that humans are still pumping too much carbon dioxide into the sky. If the trend continues, some said, carbon levels will soon surpass 450 ppm — a level that many scientists agree would create a level of global warming that would be too difficult for some humans to adapt to.“CO2 levels continue to increase, the amount of heat in the climate system continues to increase, ice continues to melt, and the seas continue to rise,” said Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology. “We will continue to break through threshold after threshold — unless we stop using the sky as a waste dump soon.”
Carbon dioxide levels atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loasurpassed 400 ppm for the entire month of April 2014. SCRIPPS INSTITUTION OF OCEANOGRAPHY
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Less than a year after scientists first warned that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could rise above 400 parts per million and stay there, it has finally happened.
For the first time in recorded history, the average level of CO2 has topped 400 ppm for an entire month. The high levels of carbon dioxide is largely considered by scientists a key factor in global warming, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Earth System Research Lab.
The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a part of the University of California, San Diego, reported that April’s average amount of CO2 was 401.33 ppm, with each day reading above 400 ppm, reports USA Today.
Scientists, using the Keeling Curve, show the increase of CO2 levels over the course of 800,000 years. SCRIPPS INSTITUTION OF OCEANOGRAPHY
According to the Institute, CO2 levels have not surpassed 300 ppm in 800,000 years. It is estimated that during Earth’s ice ages, the C02 levels were around 200 ppm, with warmer periods — as well as prior to the Industrial Revolution — having carbon dioxide levels of 280 ppm.
Past levels of CO2 are found in old air samples preserved as bubbles in the Atlantic ice sheet, according to Scripps.
Throughout the year, there are changes in CO2 levels that occur naturally from the growth of plants and trees. Carbon dioxide levels often peak in the spring due to plant growth, and decrease in the fall when plants die, according to NOAA. However, human CO2 production has exacerbated the effects, causing global warming and climate change.
Scientists have been measuring the levels of carbon dioxide over the past fifty years. Since 1958, the Keeling Curve — named after developer Charles Keeling — has been used to monitor the levels of greenhouse gasses atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa. When Keeling first started monitoring CO2 levels, the amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere was 313 ppm.
After Keeling’s death in 2005, his son Ralph, a professor of geochemistry and director of the Scripps CO2 Program, continued the measurements. In a statement last year, he warned that CO2 levels would “hit 450-ppm within a few decades.”