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NOAA: Atmospheric CO2 concentrations increase at a record rate

11 March 2016

The annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii jumped by 3.05 ppm 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. “Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years. It’s explosive compared to natural processes,” said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA's Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.

Atmospheric CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa observatory

Levels of CO2 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.

Source: NOAA