annual growth rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at
Loa Observatory in
Hawaii jumped by 3.05 parts per million during 2015, the largest
year-to-year increase in 56 years of research.
another first, 2015 was the fourth consecutive year that CO2 grew
more than 2 ppm, said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA's Global
Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of
thousands of years,” Tans said. “It’s explosive compared to
of the greenhouse gas were independently measured by NOAA’s Earth
System Research Laboratory and by the Scripps Institution of
February 2016, the average global atmospheric CO2 level stood at
402.59 ppm. Prior to 1800, atmospheric CO2 averaged about 280
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, said Tans.
big jump in CO2 is partially due to the current El
pattern, as forests, plantlife and other terrestrial systems
responded to changes in weather, precipitation and drought. The
largest previous increase occurred in 1998, also a strong El Niño
year. Continued high emissions from fossil fuel consumption are
driving the underlying growth rate over the past several years.