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Earth CO2 Levels May Have Crossed Red Line By Staying Up

Image: Earth CO2 Levels May Have Crossed Red Line By Staying Up

(Press Association via AP Images)

By    |   Thursday, 29 Sep 2016 07:25 AM

Earth's CO2 levels may have crossed a red line after they failed to drop to their normal mark below 400 parts per million for this time of year.

September is usually the month when carbon dioxide levels fall to their lowest point of the year because of growing plants absorbing it in the northern hemisphere, according to website Climate Central.

"Since the industrial revolution, humans have been altering this process by adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than plants can take up," according to Brian Kahn of Climate Central. "That's driven carbon dioxide levels higher and with it, global temperatures, along with a host of other climate change impacts."

David Black, associate professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University in New York, told the Christian Science Monitor that the failure of carbon dioxide to drop below 400 ppm represents a new normal for Earth not seen in millions of years.

"The last time our planet saw 400 ppm carbon dioxide in our atmosphere was about 3.5 million years ago, and global climate was distinctly different than today," Black said. "In particular, the Arctic (north of 60 degrees) was substantially warmer than present, and global sea level was anywhere between 15 and 90 feet higher than today."

"It took millions of years for the atmosphere to reach 400 ppm CO2 back then, and it took millions of years for the atmospheric CO2 to drop to 280 ppm right before the industrial revolution. One of the things that really concerns climate scientists is we as humans have taken only a few centuries to do what nature took millions of years, and most of that change was just in the last 50-60 years."

Ralph Keeling, director of the program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, wrote in his blog last week that while September is not always the low point for the planet's carbon dioxide mark, he believes it would be "almost impossible" for levels to drop below 400 ppm this year.

"Over the past two decades, there were four years (2002, 2008, 2009, and 2012) in which the monthly value for October was lower than September," Keeling said. "But in those years, the decrease from September to October was at most 0.45 ppm – which would not seem to be enough to push October values below 400 ppm this year."

"The monthly value for October will therefore almost certainly also stay above 400 ppm and probably will be higher than 401 ppm. By November, we will be marching up the rising half of the cycle, pushing towards new highs and perhaps even breaking the 410 ppm barrier."

The Monitor noted that while the 400 ppm barrier is mostly symbolic, it is seen as evidence of Earth's changing climate.

"It's a round number that people recognize," Damon Matthews, said environment professor at Concordia University in Montreal. "Also symbolic is that, in parallel with this increase in CO2, global temperatures have exceeded one degree above pre-industrial temperatures."

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Earth's CO2 levels may have crossed a red line after they failed to drop to their normal mark below 400 parts per million for this time of year.
earth, co2, levels, red line
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2016-25-29
Thursday, 29 Sep 2016 07:25 AM
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