Greenhouse gas reaches alarming new record

Carbon dioxide (CO2), the No. 1 greenhouse gas leading to man-made global warming, has reached a dubious new mileston...

Posted: May 3, 2018 5:21 PM
Updated: May 3, 2018 5:21 PM

Carbon dioxide (CO2), the No. 1 greenhouse gas leading to man-made global warming, has reached a dubious new milestone.

The level of the gas in the atmosphere, which is measured by instruments on top of Hawaii's Mauna Loa Observatory, topped 410 parts per million (ppm) for the month of April.

This is the highest concentration of the heat-trapping gas ever recorded at the Observatory, where direct measurements have been taking place for more than 60 years, giving us the longest detailed record.

Passing 410 ppm "is important because it punctuates another milestone in the upwards march of CO2," according to Ralph Keeling, head of the Scripps CO2 program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.

"At the recent pace, we'll hit 450 ppm in a mere 16 years, and 500 ppm 20 years after that. That's well within dangerous territory for the climate system," Keeling added.

Keeling's father, Charles David Keeling, began taking the measurements on Mauna Loa in 1958 when the concentration was 315 ppm. The "Keeling Curve," the name given to the the carbon dioxide levels measured in Hawaii, show a drastic and accelerating rise since measurements began.

But the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere began well before the 1950's, which we know thanks to data collected from ice-cores.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the levels fluctuated naturally over many thousands of years but had never exceeded 300 ppm at any point in the last 800,000 years.

"The rise is a direct consequence of the large releases of CO2 from fossil-fuel burning," Keeling told CNN.

The oceans and land plants remove a lot of the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, about 50% according to Keeling, but they simply cannot keep up.

And the rest is piling up in the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide is called a "greenhouse gas" because of its ability to trap solar radiation in the Earth's atmosphere like a blanket and heat up the planet. Without it, the planet would be too cold to support life.

But human activity has increased the levels of the gas to dangerous levels, increasing the thickness of that blanket to the point that the Earth is heating up.

"Our activities keep pumping a steroid into the naturally-varying atmosphere," said Marshall Shepherd, climate scientist and Director of the Atmospheric Sciences program at the University of Georgia.

"Yes, climate has always changed and CO2 has varied but this as an experiment we have not seen because humans are the new kid on Earth's block," Shepherd warned.

The Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, which President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of in 2017, set out a global action plant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and hopefully keep the global average temperature below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.

This will require bringing the Keeling Curve to a peak very soon, something Ralph Keeling is hopeful he will see. "I'm hopeful we will start to see slowing in the next ten years, as renewable energy sources such as wind and solar continue to replace fossil-fuel fuels ... We'll see."

Terre Haute
Broken Clouds
59° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 59°
Robinson
Broken Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 64°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 63°
Rockville
Overcast
53° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 53°
Casey
Broken Clouds
54° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 54°
Brazil
Broken Clouds
59° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 59°
Marshall
Broken Clouds
59° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 59°
Turning Cooler
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 295720

Reported Deaths: 8916
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1454625225
DuPage17786563
Lake17151488
Will14239382
Kane13285326
St. Clair6747192
Winnebago6300151
Madison5828143
Champaign481821
McHenry4653118
Peoria355552
McLean332523
Rock Island307177
Kankakee277677
Unassigned2562244
Sangamon247945
Kendall205425
Tazewell180927
LaSalle175857
Macon163645
DeKalb162239
Coles150831
Williamson142649
Jackson127625
Clinton122221
Adams119910
Boone115323
Randolph95811
Effingham8833
Vermilion8304
Whiteside78421
Ogle7486
Knox7043
Monroe69016
Grundy6876
Henry6795
Morgan67423
Bureau67112
Jefferson64138
Marion5732
Macoupin5677
Christian56511
Franklin5523
Stephenson5486
Union52424
McDonough49015
Logan4691
Crawford4664
Fayette4376
Woodford4327
Livingston4086
Shelby4084
Cass40411
Jersey39817
Lee3941
Montgomery38913
Iroquois36819
Saline3624
Perry35815
Bond3426
Warren3342
Douglas3187
Wayne3005
Jo Daviess2752
Lawrence2633
Carroll2386
Greene23513
Hancock2283
Moultrie2224
Richland2206
Cumberland2195
Washington2191
Jasper21210
Fulton1900
Clark1833
Pulaski1831
White1760
Johnson1630
Wabash1623
Mason1611
Clay1590
Piatt1430
Mercer1415
Pike1391
De Witt1292
Menard1281
Massac1172
Edgar1168
Marshall1110
Ford1085
Alexander851
Scott800
Gallatin752
Hamilton742
Henderson710
Brown690
Edwards680
Putnam630
Calhoun620
Stark562
Schuyler500
Hardin390
Pope301
Out of IL30

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 120019

Reported Deaths: 3632
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21671768
Lake10772325
St. Joseph6763116
Elkhart6755112
Allen6411206
Hamilton4997110
Vanderburgh390632
Hendricks2789125
Monroe270837
Tippecanoe265213
Johnson2383126
Clark229357
Porter223347
Delaware204162
Cass19619
Vigo190628
Madison173575
LaPorte153241
Warrick142847
Floyd142064
Howard134164
Kosciusko130117
Bartholomew120357
Marshall102924
Dubois102119
Boone100346
Grant97237
Hancock95143
Noble93532
Henry83027
Wayne78115
Jackson77910
Morgan73940
Shelby68929
Daviess68429
Dearborn67928
LaGrange65111
Clinton64414
Harrison60124
Putnam59211
Gibson5606
Knox54410
Lawrence53029
Montgomery51222
DeKalb50111
White49114
Decatur46339
Miami4394
Greene43236
Fayette42314
Jasper4032
Steuben3997
Scott39611
Posey3712
Sullivan33912
Jennings31812
Clay3155
Franklin31525
Ripley3098
Whitley2956
Orange28924
Adams2833
Carroll28313
Wabash2758
Starke2747
Wells2734
Washington2702
Spencer2693
Huntington2543
Jefferson2543
Fulton2472
Tipton23323
Randolph2308
Perry22613
Jay1931
Pike1771
Newton17511
Owen1721
Martin1690
Rush1584
Vermillion1330
Fountain1302
Blackford1243
Pulaski1141
Crawford1110
Parke1112
Brown1023
Benton870
Ohio797
Union790
Switzerland680
Warren411
Unassigned0227