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Surprising Science

As CO2 Levels Go, April 2014 Is Officially In The History Books

Readings show that, on average, they’ve exceeded 400 parts per million every day this month. The last time they were that high, Homo sapiens didn’t even exist. (There’s still today, but it’s not looking too good.)

What’s the Latest Development?

While the world stutters and stops around issues related to climate change, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) continue to monitor levels of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere from Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory as they’ve done since 1958. Their latest report marks a significant milestone: For the first time in recorded human history, those levels have surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) on average every single day this month. According to various studies, it’s been at least 800,000 years since they were that high on a consistent basis.

What’s the Big Idea?

Every year, CO2 levels rise through the winter and spring and begin their decline once the blooming season is in full swing and more plants use the gas for photosynthesis. However, they can only use so much, and thanks to human-generated emissions, the amount of leftover CO2 is increasing. This creates an effect that lead Mauna Loa scientist Ralph Keeling describes as being “a bit like waves on a rising tide.” Another scientist, Pieter Tans, predicts that the average should dip below 400 ppm later this summer. Without significant action, though, it’s only a matter of time before that number remains above 400 ppm all year long.

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Read it at Climate Central


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