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  • Khushboo Pareek

Earth records highest ever CO2 level spike in atmosphere

Earth has witnessed the largest spike ever recorded in the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide attributed to several factors like greenhouse gases, according to researchers.


The global average concentration of CO2 in March this year soared by 4.7 parts per million (ppm) compared to March last year, setting a new record for the highest increase in CO2 levels over a 12-month period, reported The Guardian.

Scientists attribute this surge to several factors, including the waning of the periodic El Nino climate event and the continued emission of greenhouse gases from activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation.

El Nino is a climate phenomenon characterised by warm ocean currents in the Pacific, impacting global weather patterns.

"It’s really significant to see the pace of the increase over the first four months of this year, which is also a record," said Ralph Keeling, director of the CO2 Program at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

He added, "We aren’t just breaking records in CO2 concentrations, but also the record in how fast it is rising."

The Scripps CO2 program was initiated in 1956 by Charles David Keeling and operated under his direction until his passing in 2005. It is currently being continued by Ralph F. Keeling, who also runs a parallel program at SIO to measure changes in atmospheric Oxygen and Argon abundances 

CO2 levels, tracked since 1958 atop Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano, show consistent yearly increases.

In June last year, National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported a global CO2 concentration of 421ppm, a 50 per cent rise from pre-industrial levels. The latest reading at Mauna Loa records around 426ppm, indicating a concerning trend of escalating CO2 accumulation.

Before humans began emitting large amounts of CO2 from fossil fuel burning, CO2 levels remained around 280ppm for nearly 6,000 years. The rapid increase in the gas poses serious threats, including heatwaves, floods, droughts, and wildfires.

Recent research suggests CO2 levels haven't been this high for about 14 million years, leading to a drastically different climate.

The previous record spike occurred in 2016 during an El Niño event. While a more typical annual increase of 2-3ppm may resume after the current El Niño, it offers little solace, warns Keeling.

"The rate of rise will almost certainly come down, but it is still rising and in order to stabilize the climate, you need CO2 level to be falling," Keeling said.

"Clearly, that isn’t happening. Human activity has caused CO2 to rocket upwards. It makes me sad more than anything. It’s sad what we are doing," he added.

Image Source: Unsplash



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