Rocky Rex's Science Stuff
Thursday, 5 May 2016
Climate Change - Charting the rising levels of carbon dioxide
levels in the atmosphere are rising.
This graph showing the data is called the
It is named after the scientist who first produced accurate measurements of carbon dioxide in the air -
Charles David Keeling.
The small up-and-down pattern is caused by changes during each year -
in the summer in the northern hemisphere, there is more photosynthesis which causes CO2 levels to fall.
Charles David Keeling in the lab.
Keeling's collection of data began in 1958.
Concentration is measured in
March 2015 was the first time for hundreds of thousands of years that CO2 exceeded 400 ppm for a whole month.
Ice core data
shows humans have never breathed air containing so much CO2.
Since Keeling began recording, CO2 has risen from 318 ppm to 400 ppm... a rise of around 25%.
The fastest rise of CO
in the air seen in
the ice core record (800,000 years)
20 ppm in 1000 years.
There is evidence that
has never risen so fast
since the extinction of the dinosaurs.
level in the atmosphere is now rising at around
20 ppm per decade
when fossil fuels are burned.
joins with two
to make a
carbon dioxide molecule
Measurements show that this is
reducing the oxygen in the air
as time passes.
Several scientific organisations measure the gases in the air.
One major set of measurements are from
a laboratory in Hawaii.
This is all evidence that extra carbon dioxide in the air comes from burning fossil fuels.
We are time-warping vast amounts of ancient carbon (which we are combining with current oxygen) into the modern atmosphere.
In 2010 about 9 Gigatonnes of Carbon (GtC) were emitted from burning fossil fuels, as 33 Gigatonnes of CO
How much is 33 Gigatonnes?
33 billion tonnes or 33,000,000,000,000,000 grams.
9 Gigatonnes of carbon weighs about the same as 132 billion people.
The amount of carbon we are putting into the atmosphere each year is equal to 20 times the weight of the current world population.
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