The most recent measurement of Monthly Average atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at the Mauna Loa reference site in Hawaii have shown one of the largest ever annual increases on record. Monthly Average atmospheric CO2 for February 2016 was 404.02 ppm, compared to Monthly Average atmospheric CO2 for February 2015 of 400.26 ppm. This represents an increase of 3.76ppm, and a significant jump upwards. 2015 was also the warmest year on record.
Pieter Tans, lead scientist at Noaa’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, said “Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years, it’s explosive compared to natural processes.”. The last time the Earth experienced such a sustained CO2 rise was between 11,000 and 17,000 years ago, in which period CO2 increased by 80ppm over several thousand years. Today’s rate is 200 times faster, said Tans.
Scientists at the remote Hawaii site have plotted global CO2 levels since 1958, in what is known as the Keeling Curve. The last year of data are still preliminary, pending recalibrations of reference gases and other quality control checks. The Mauna Loa data are being obtained at an altitude of 3400 m in the northern subtropics, and may not be the same as the globally averaged CO2 concentration at the surface.