Skip to comments.400 PPM: Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere Reaches Prehistoric Levels
Posted on 03/19/2014 6:15:30 AM PDT by Mrs. Don-o
400 PPM: Whats Next for a Warming Planet Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached this level for the first time in millions of years. What does this portend? »
On May 2, after nightfall shut down photosynthesis for the day in Hawaii, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere touched 400 parts-per-million there for the first time in at least 800,000 years. Near the summit of volcanic Mauna Loawhere a member of the Keeling family has kept watch since 1958sensors measured this record through sunrise the following day. Levels have continued to dance near that benchmark in recent days, registering above 400 ppm for the first time in eons after midnight on May 7. When the measurements started the daily average could be as low as 315 ppm, already up from a pre-industrial average of around 280 ppm.
This measurement is just the hourly average of CO2 levels high in the Hawaiian sky, but this familys figures carry more weight than those made at other stations in the world as they have faithfully kept the longest record of atmospheric CO2. Arctic weather stations also hit the hourly 400 ppm mark last spring and this one. Regardless, the hourly levels at Mauna Loa will soon drop as spring kicks in across the northern hemisphere, trees budding forth an army of leaves hungrily sucking CO2 out of the sky. 5-2-5-7-2013-mauna-loa
Courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography
It may be next year before the monthly average level reaches 400 ppmand yet longer still until the annual average reaches that number.
But there is no question that the world continues to inexorably climb toward higher levels of greenhouse gas concentrations. Barring economic recessions, the world may be lucky to stop at 450, 500 or even beyond. Last year, humanity spewed some 36 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, up from 35 billion the year before.
In the coming year, Scientific American will run an occasional series, 400 ppm, to examine what this invisible line in the sky means for the global climate, the planet and all the living things on it, including human civilization. Some scientists argue we passed the safe level for greenhouse gas concentrations long ago, pointing to the accelerating impacts, from extreme weather to the meltdown of Arctic sea ice. Others argue that we have yet more room to burn fossil fuels, clear forests and the likebut not muchbefore catastrophic climate change becomes inescapable. And the international community of nations has agreed that 450 ppmlinked to a rise of 2 degrees Celsius in global average temperaturesshould not be exceeded. We are not on track to avoid that limit, whether you prefer the economic analysis of experts like the International Energy Agency or the steady monitoring of mechanical sensors.
The last time CO2 levels at Mauna Loa were this high, Homo sapiens did not live there. In fact, the last time CO2 levels are thought to have been this high was more than 2.5 million years ago, an era known as the Pliocene, when the Canadian Arctic boasted forests instead of icy wastes. The land bridge connecting North America and South America had recently formed. The globes temperature averaged about 3 degrees C warmer, and sea level lapped coasts 5 meters or more higher. co2-levels-over-800000-years
Courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography
The world will change again due to human activity and associated emissions of CO2, perhaps causing another set of coral reef extinctions like those found during the Pliocene, among other impacts. When Charles D. Keeling first started his measurements, CO2 made up some 317 ppm of the air we breathe and climate change was already a concern thanks to the work of John Tyndall, Svante Arrhenius and Guy Callendar. Every year since 1958 the sawtoothed line depicting Keelings measurementsreadings kept up by his son Ralphhas climbed up, capturing the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations as well as the worlds breath. keeling-curve
Courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography
What can be done? In the short term, more potent but shorter-lasting greenhouse gas emissions could be curbed or a concerted effort to develop CO2 capture and storage technology could be undertaken. Whether we do that or not, given CO2′s long lifetime in the atmosphere, the world will continue to warm to some extent; at least as much as the 0.8 degree C of warming to date is likely thanks to the CO2 already in the atmosphere.
At present pace, the world could reach 450 ppm in a few short decades. The record notches up another 2 ppm per year at present pace. Human civilization developed and flourished in a geologic era that never saw CO2 concentrations above 300 ppm. We are in novel territory again and we show no signs of slowing to get our bearings, let alone stopping.
What say ye?
Wonder how much a prehistoric SUV would sell for if I could dig one up.
Would that be Ice Age prehistoric levels?
Sure, get a sample from the top of a volcano.
I vote yes, this should give the “population control” crowd the vapors.
Lot of heavy breathing going on back in the day? (800,000 years ago) Or, was it the CO2 being emitted from those scary SUV’s?
Well I say that they should have tossed the reading for the simple reason that the volcano is active.
Q. What is Mauna Loa?
A. A Volcano...
So, having a sensor at the top of an active volcano is a good idea..............................
Better that than another glacier build up here in Wisconsin! :)
A nice diversion and worthy of consideration. However, my first proposal is the urge the ‘Keeling’ family to take their highly accurate and scientific CO2 readings somewhere other than on the precipice of an active volcano.
This article mixes the (fraud) concepts of AGC and AGW. This seems to be a trend. Global “change” is a more flexible con, but doesn’t sell to the public like global “warming”.
This is just the NOAA way of doing things....place your dispersed geographical temperature sensors near the exhausts of building heating systems etc.....
To believe these amateurs’ loggings requires suspension of all disbelief in reality.
My rough interpretation of the data shown in the figures-
1. Daily CO2 conc from the 2nd to the 7th is fairly constant, on the 8th where it hits 400, the data is clearly an an artifact perhaps caused by an instrument malfunction or burp from the volcano. Check your instruments.
2. The long term data is clearly cyclical and the data from 1958 is a short term sample whereas the core data is averaged over hundreds or even thousands of years. You cannot compare the two.
3. The observatory data shows a constant rate of increase over 50 years. Since the amount of CO2 generated over those 50 years has not been increasing dramatically during that time, the rate of increase should be greater now than in the past. It is not.
Imagine a stadium with 100,000 seats. Now imagine 40 seats are left empty while the rest have someone in them to give you an idea of how little 400 ppm is.
Correction to my previous post. The 2nd comment should read “HAS been increasing dramatically”.
Nobody ever asks the climate alarmists, "OK, so what is the IDEAL CO2 level and earth surface temperature?" As a gardener, my preferences are clear: more and more.
I'm glad my compost pile generates robust amounts of heat and CO2. If everybody had a compost pile, maybe I'd reach my target climate: the pretty, pleasant, practical Pliocene.
Who would read that?
CO2 is a trailing indicator, right?
As measured NEXT TO A VOLCANO!
Yinz all catch that?
Also that CO2 concentration is cyclical.
Yes, different words same thought.
Plus, one has to question the accuracy of measurement equipment from 1958.............................
Oh, darn. Hate it when that happens.
"...and the CO2 level was between 2000 and 8000 ppm."
And here I was, hoping that just by exhaling prodigiously, I could bring on my Pliocene Paradise.
Yeah, except for a few pliocene-predators
Oh, it was pleasant alright!
uh 0’, looks like the government will have to switch from preventing homes being built at ocean edges to preventing them from being built on calderas
Scientific American was wonderful when I took it back in the ‘70s. Honest science, interesting articles tamed somewhat for the lay person.
I recently took a subscription and was horrified to discover that it is almost completely tainted, biased with political correctness. It is close to the antithesis of the scientific method, complete with “the science is settled” nonsense.
The magazine’s title is now a joke.
It’s embarrassing that this is what passes for science these days. Shameful.
CO2 readings from the top of a volcano and Antarctica.
Did these people not notice that volcanos spew CO2 and Antarctica has no plant life?
What’s next? Planting sensors in orbit or underwater?
Looks like someone found one...
400 parts per million. That's 1 part in 2,500. That's 4/100ths of 1 percent.
Let's go a little further...
In 1958, when the Mauna Loa site - that is a volcano, right? - started collecting data, the numbers averaged 315 ppm. Now (I'll round up) we're roughly at 400 ppm. That's a difference of 85 ppm - in 56 years.
So somehow a change of 1 part in 11,764 over 5+ decades (0.0085%) is responsible for all this gloom and doom? I'm hardly versed in the atmospheric sciences, but I'd need somebody to explain this to me.
you finally found the answer to al bore’s rants-
it is all the “earth hippies and Green peace activists”
building COMPOST piles!- they are the ones that started
this climate change! let’s have Al lock them up.
attempted humor. :)
(I did that sketch for my granddaughter back when atmospheric CO2 was "only" 360 PPM.)
Today the claim is 400 PPM.
(See my next comment...)
With any substance other than CO2, a 0.0004 concentration would be referred to as a “trace”. Politics is trumping science, big time.
Let's organize ‘The Great Carbon Belch’.
Everyone start their cars and let them run in the driveway until the tanks run dry for a week straight. Same with the lawn mowers.
Let jet engines idle at airports, and refuel them in the air.
I'd wager the CO2 sensor is probably located over a fumarole in the Kilauea volcano.
Just you wait until my compost starts cookin’....
I think it’s clear that there is a causal relationship between CO2 levels and temperatures. I don’t think there is a reasonable way to doubt that, just look at Venus for goodness sakes.
The question really is: does our contribution to the total CO2 amount in the atmosphere have a significant impact on the climate?
One factor the environmentalists seem to neglect is the very history they point to in an attempt to bolster their theory. In the article above and the graph you have provided, one can clearly see a natural trend towards rises and falls in CO2 amounts throughout recent geologic history.
A truly reasonable scientist would look at these data and conclude, if anything, we may indeed be in a warming trend but this trend is probably due to some as of yet unidentified factor that has clearly operated in the past, and had nothing to do with humanity.
Let’s examine your graph again. The period between the global increase in temperatures seems to be rather regular, with a period varying between 10 and 20,000 years.
Armed with this information, and the fact the period observed occured at least 4 other times with this same frequency, and the last spike occured about 12,000 years ago, if anything we are left with the distinct possibility (if not probability although admittedly statistical analysis cannot be done given such a small sample size) we are headed towards a warming trend, but not one caused by man’s influence rather one perfectly natural for this geologic epoch.
The truly vital and critical question to ask and answer is: is our CO2 output a significant portion of the total CO2 in the atmosphere? I have never seen this question addressed directly, in a rigorous way, and therefore I suspect the truly scientific and mathematic answer is “no”. I suspect this because it’s never discussed, this specific mechanism of man’s contribution and it’s effect on the environment, and the fact (if indeed it is a fact which I again suspect it is) that our contribution is negligible doesn’t fit too well with the agenda. The agenda being of course population control via the state.
Because “everyone” (everyone by implication who is smart) knows: humans=”bad”.
But first let me get in my guess:
At the end of the runway?
Perhaps, maybe, could be, most likely, possibly, etc.
And the warmalarmists claim that minuscule amount of carbon dioxide will destroy us...