Record annual increase of carbon dioxide observed at Mauna Loa for 2015

March 10, 2016 by Theo Stein

The annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii jumped by 3.05 parts per million during 2015, the largest year-to-year increase in 56 years of research.

In another first, 2015 was the fourth consecutive year that CO2 grew more than 2 ppm, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA's Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.

"Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years," Tans said. "It's explosive compared to natural processes."

Levels of the were independently measured by NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory and by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

In February 2016, the average global atmospheric CO2 level stood at 402.59 ppm. Prior to 1800, atmospheric CO2 averaged about 280 ppm.

The last time the Earth experienced such a sustained CO2 increase was between 17,000 and 11,000 years ago, when CO2 levels increased by 80 ppm. Today's rate of increase is 200 times faster, said Tans.

The big jump in CO2 is partially due to the current El Niño weather pattern, as forests, plantlife and other terrestrial systems responded to changes in weather, precipitation and drought. The largest previous increase occurred in 1998, also a strong El Niño year. Continued high emissions from fossil fuel consumption are driving the underlying growth rate over the past several years.

Explore further: Earth still absorbing about half carbon dioxide emissions produced by people: study

More information: To track CO2 concentrations at Mauna Loa and global CO2 concentrations visit NOAA's Greenhouse Gas Reference Network. esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/

Related Stories

Atmospheric carbon levels nearing historic threshold

April 24, 2013

(Phys.org) —For the first time in human history, concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) could rise above 400 parts per million (ppm) for sustained lengths of time throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere ...

Climate chief warns of 'urgency' as CO2 levels rise

April 29, 2013

The UN's climate chief called for urgency Monday as she opened a new round of global talks amid warnings that Earth-warming carbon dioxide levels were approaching a symbolic threshold never seen in human history.

Historic carbon peak soon to become global average, WMO says

May 14, 2013

After seeing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere surpass a historic threshold last week, the world should brace for the new peak level to soon become the global annual average, the World Meteorological Organization warned ...

Recommended for you

Did meteorites bring life's phosphorus to Earth?

August 30, 2016

Meteorites that crashed onto Earth billions of years ago may have provided the phosphorous essential to the biological systems of terrestrial life. The meteorites are believed to have contained a phosphorus-bearing mineral ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.