Earlier this week, scientists from NOAA and the Scripps Institution for Oceanography (at UC San Diego) announced that the carbon dioxide levels measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii have peaked at 424 parts per million (ppm) during the month of May. You may recall this topic was included in a Science Wednesday video I made a few weeks ago, posted here. Thus, the steady rise of carbon dioxide, due to human emissions, continues to climb further into territory not seen for millions of years.
Compared with May 2022, carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 3 ppm in just one year and represent the 4th-largest annual increase in the peak of the “Keeling Curve”. The measurements originally were started by Charles David Keeling (of Scripps) in March 1958 on the Mauna Loa volcano, providing a record of 65 years of carbon dioxide measurements. NOAA started its own measurements in May 1974, which have run parallel to Scripps and provide another independent record that corroborate Scripps’ numbers. These days, Keeling’s son, geochemist Ralph Keeling, continues the Scripps program, including the on-going sampling at Mauna Loa.
Carbon dioxide levels are now more than 50% higher than they were before the onset of the industrial era. If you think this isn’t affecting you in some way, think again: “Every year, we see the impacts of climate change in the heat waves, droughts, flooding, wildfires and storms happening all around us. While we will have to adapt to the climate impacts we cannot avoid, we must expend every effort to slash carbon pollution and safeguard this planet and the life that calls it home” says NOAA Administrator, Dr. Rick Spinrad.
The rising carbon dioxide also impacts the ocean, which has been absorbing excess heat and carbon. The consequences of this include increasing surface and subsurface ocean temperatures, sea level rise, disruption of marine ecosystems, and ocean acidification. The latter changes the chemistry of seawater, leading to lower dissolved oxygen, which interferes with the growth of some marine organisms.
To visualize how sea level rise may affect your community, see NOAA’s sea level rise tool.