Monday, June 20, 2016

CO2 Surges Past 410 ppm at 30 ESRL station locations

NOAA announced this past week that the South Pole CO2 level sliced through 400 ppm and garnished a major amount of media attention. 

However, this left me thinking about the next milestone in a treacherous journey to further CO2 increases - 410 ppm. 

We have experienced accelerated CO2 increases during 2014-2016 due to El Nino and other global heating factors. As Richard Betts has argued, this push by El Nino will keep Mauna Loa, and perhaps the planet above 400 ppm later this year. 

“The atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is rising year-on-year due to human emissions, but this year it is getting an extra boost due to the recent El Niño event – changes in the sea-surface temperature of the tropical Pacific Ocean. This warms and dries tropical ecosystems, reducing their uptake of carbon, and exacerbating forest fires. Since human emissions are now 25 per cent greater than in the last big El Niño in 1997/98, this all adds up to a record CO2 rise this year.”

As Betts further noted, "Carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa is currently above 400 parts per million, but would have been expected to drop back down below this level in September. However, we predict that this will not happen now, because the recent El Niño has warmed and dried tropical ecosystems and driven forest fires, adding to the CO2 rise". Source:

So where has the planet reached 410 ppm this year? In at least 30 locations in the ESRL network. 

Each red or blue circle in the following image represents an location where CO2 is measured. Those locations with yellow stars inside the circles have preliminary spikes above 410 ppm this spring, and a few actually have had their mean break through the 410 ppm barrier. 

So much for concern over 400 ppm.

Most locations with levels above 410 ppm are located in the Arctic, North America, Europe Middle East and East Asia above 20N. The only major holdout is Summit Greenland, but that will likely break the 410 mark next year.

Here are the CO2 time series images to document the above map, taken from ESRL Interactive Data Visualisation site as of June 18, 2016. Source:

They depict the Arctic first, then North America, Europe, Middle East, and finally, East Asia.


North America


Middle East

East Asia

Given the warmth from El Nino and oceanic heating, plus developing drought in the US, and ongoing drought in other areas, it is quite possible that many of these stations will continue the accelerated increase in CO2 - compared to prior years - through this year. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

South Pole CO2 Shoots Past 400 ppm

During the frigid Antarctic night, the trace gas monitoring station at the South Pole shot past another somber milestone as its CO2 measurements exceeded 400 ppm for the first time on May 23rd, 2016.

Source: NOAA

The ESRL/GMD data collected since 1975 made it clear and inevitable that this event was coming, but at the same time, it is still a troubling moment in the ongoing, accelerating increases of CO2 emissions and the realization of more troubling climate consequences.

The South Pole (SPO) site was the last globally to slice through this point at which many scientists concur that we begin to experience climate extremes that will make human life more difficult globally, with more severe natural impacts. It is a CO2 level not reached in human history - and one we will not see again for hundreds, if not thousands of years, as illustrated by the Keeling Curve, much of it drawn from Antarctic ice core data.

Carbon Monitoring Satellites - More Coverage than Nature Article Claimed

In a May 25, 2016 Nature article, Jeff Tollefson, one of Nature's reporters, made the startling claim that "Today just two satellites monitor Earth’s greenhouse-gas emissions from space." Source:

However, that assertion is not the case. While Tollefson, pointed to the continuous record of SCIAMACHY from 2002-2012 from the ESA Envisat and GOSAT's CO2 and CH4 data availability since 2009, and OCO-2's CO2 coverage since 2014, there were glaring omissions from the graphic and reporting he provided.

First, the NASA Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on the AQUA satellite has been providing CO2 global measurements since 2002 as well, with 2 ppm accuracy in the equatorial and mid latitudes. It has been a key tool in tracking CO2 for the last 14 years. 

Additionally AIRS tracks CH4 at 10 atmospheric layers, and has since 2002. Source:

The AIRS imagery is readily available to the public on the Giovanni website:

Additionally, the METOP IASI CO2 and CH4 imagery availability was ignored. METOP 1-B and 2-A satellites provide global daily coverage for CO2 and CH4 atmospheric concentrations, and have done so since October, 2006 through their IASI instruments. They measure CO2 and CH4 in up to 100 atmospheric layers. EUMETSAT will launch METOP 3-C in 2018, if their effort stays on track.

There is a need for more accurate and complete satellite data to complement the ESRL ground based collection sites to enable country based verification of emissions. An enhanced system will also enable more detailed analysis of natural source emissions and potential CO2 and CH4 increases.

The point is, we have more sources of space based CO2 and CH4 tracking that implied, and more detail and coverage from the sources not mentioned in the article.