Published On: Wed, Mar 15th, 2017

Carbon dioxide in atmosphere rises at record rate for second straight year

The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has reached a new record.

oil refineryCOLORADO – For the second consecutive year, carbon dioxide concentrations as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii rose at a record rate, according to new data released by NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL).

The increase of three parts per million (ppm) in 2016 was marginally below 2015’s jump of 3.03 ppm, but both years mark the first time carbon dioxide has risen more than three ppm in a single year in ESRL’s 57 years of monitoring.

Ever-increasing carbon pollution is thought to be the main driver behind the uptick, although an exceptionally strong El Niño helped push up the numbers.

The annual growth rate has increased since record keeping began in 1960 from just under one ppm in the 1960s to more than 2.4 ppm through the first half of the 2010s.

According to Climate Central, those seemingly incremental increases belie the major changes taking place.

“The rate of carbon dioxide growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist at ESRL, said in a press release.

“This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”

Before the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide stood at roughly 280 ppm. Since then, the levels, believed to have been driven by human activities, have reached record highs year after year.

Last year marked a milestone, with levels passing the 400 ppm mark permanently. Scientists expect carbon dioxide to briefly reach 410 ppm this spring, a first in human history.

The rapid rise of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is believed to have caused the planet to warm roughly 1.8°F since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

The world has had back-to-back-to-back hottest years on record since 2014. The corresponding heat has also caused glaciers to melt, seas to rise and altered atmospheric circulation patterns around the globe.

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