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September 2012 CO2 Concentrations: 391.07ppm

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography measured an average of 391.07ppm CO2 concentration at their Mauna Loa, Hawai’i’s Observatory during September 2012.

391.07ppm is the highest value for September concentrations in recorded history. Last year’s 388.95ppm was the previous highest value ever recorded.  This September’s reading is 2.12ppm higher than last year’s.  This increase is significant.  Of course, more significant is the unending trend toward higher concentrations with time, no matter the month or specific year-over-year value, as seen in the graphs below.

The yearly maximum monthly value normally occurs during May. This year was no different: the 396.78ppm concentration in May 2012 was the highest value reported this year and in recorded history (I’m neglecting proxy data).  If we extrapolate this year’s value out in time, it will only be 2 years until Scripps reports 400ppm average concentration for a singular month (likely May 2014).  Note that I previously wrote that this wouldn’t occur until 2015.  I’ve seen comments on other posts that CO2 measured at Mauna Loa should be higher than anywhere else because of its elevation and specific location.  It is important to understand that this statement exists somewhere between confusing and an outright falsehood: CO2 is a well-mixed constituent of the atmosphere.  That means that emissions of new CO2 are quickly and pretty evenly distributed in space.  While point locations might vary between each other (differences between polar and tropical CO2 concentrations vary the most, for example), the observations at Mauna Loa are very representative of those found across the set of observation stations.  In addition, as the graphs below will help demonstrate, the historical record is very clear: concentrations have done only one thing in the past 50+ years at Mauna Loa: increased.  There has been no plateauing or decrease in that time period.  Moreover, concentrations at all the individual recording sites show the same long-term trend: an increase.

That being said, it is worth noting here that stations measured 400ppm CO2 concentration for the first time in the Arctic earlier this year.  The Mauna Loa observations represent more well-mixed (global) conditions while sites in the Arctic and elsewhere more accurately measure local and regional concentrations.

Judging by the year-over-year increases seen per month in the past 10 years, I predict 2012 will not see an average monthly concentration below 390ppm.  Last year, I predicted that 2011′s minimum would be ~388ppm.  I overestimated the minimum somewhat since both September’s and October’s measured concentrations were just under 389ppm.  So far into 2012, my prediction is holding up.  October’s concentration could be slightly less than September’s, so we will have to see next month how accurate this prediction is.

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Figure 1 – Time series of CO2 concentrations measured at Scripp’s Mauna Loa Observatory in September: from 1958 through 2012.

This time series chart shows concentrations for the month of September in the Scripps dataset going back to 1958. As I wrote above, concentrations are persistently and inexorably moving upward. Alternatively, we could take a 10,000 year view of CO2 concentrations from ice cores and compare that to the recent Mauna Loa observations:

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Figure 2 – Historical (10,000 year) CO2 concentrations from ice core proxies (blue and green curves) and direct observations made at Mauna Loa, Hawai’i (red curve).

Or we could take a really, really long view into the past:

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Figure 3 – Historical record of CO2 concentrations from ice core proxy data, 2008 observed CO2 concentration value, and 2 potential future concentration values resulting from lower and higher emissions scenarios used in the IPCC’s AR4.

Note that this graph includes values from the past 800,000 years, 2008 observed values (~6-8ppm less than this year’s average value will be) as well as the projected concentrations for 2100 derived from a lower emissions and higher emissions scenarios used by the IPCC.  Has CO2 varied naturally in this time period?  Of course it has.  If our current emissions rate continues unabated, it looks like a tripling of average pre-industrial concentrations will be our reality by 2100 (278 *3 = 834).  This graph clearly demonstrates how anomalous today’s CO2 concentration values are (much higher than the average recorded over the past 800,000 years).  It further shows how significant projected emission pathways are.  I will point out that our actual emissions to date are greater than the higher emissions pathway shown above.

Given our historical emissions to date and the likelihood that they will continue to grow at an increasing rate in the next 25 years, we will pass a number of “safe” thresholds – for all intents and purposes permanently as far as concerns our species. It is time to start seriously investigating and discussing what kind of world will exist after CO2 concentrations peak at 850 and 1100ppm. I don’t believe the IPCC or any other knowledgeable body has done this to date. To remain relevant, I think institutions who want a credible seat at the climate science-policy table will have to do so moving forward.

As the second and third graphs imply, efforts to pin any future concentration goal to a number like 350ppm or even 450ppm will be insanely difficult: 350ppm more so than 450ppm, obviously. Beyond an education tool, I don’t see the utility in using 350ppm – we simply will not achieve it, or anything close to it, given our history and likelihood that economic growth goals will trump any effort to address CO2 concentrations in the near future.  That is not to say that we should abandon hope or efforts to do something.  On the contrary, this post series informs those who are most interested in doing something.  With a solid basis in the science, we become well equipped to discuss policy options.  I join those who encourage efforts to tie emissions reductions to economic growth through scientific and technological research and innovation.


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July 2012 CO2 Concentrations: 394.49ppm

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography measured an average of 394.49ppm CO2 concentration at their Mauna Loa, Hawai’i’s Observatory during July 2012.

394.49ppm is the highest value for July concentrations in recorded history. Last year’s 392.59ppm was the previous highest value ever recorded.  This July’s reading is 1.90ppm higher than last year’s.  This increase is significant.  Of course, more significant is the unending trend toward higher concentrations with time, no matter the month or specific year-over-year value, as seen in the graphs below.

The yearly maximum monthly value normally occurs during May. This year was no different: the 396.78ppm concentration was the highest value reported this year and in recorded history (no proxy data).  If we extrapolate this year’s value out in time, it will only be 2 years until Scripps reports 400ppm average concentration for a singular month (likely May 2014).  Note that I previously wrote that this wouldn’t occur until 2015.  I’ve seen comments on other posts that CO2 measured at Mauna Loa should be higher than anywhere else because of its elevation and specific location.  It is important to understand that this statement exists between confusing and an outright falsehood: CO2 is a well-mixed constituent of the atmosphere.  While point locations might vary between each other (differences between polar and tropical CO2 concentrations vary, for example), the observations at Mauna Loa are very representative of those found across the set of observation stations.  In addition, as the graphs below will help demonstrate, the historical record is very clear: concentrations have done only one thing in the past 50+ years at Mauna Loa: increased.  There has been no plateauing or decrease in that time period.

That being said, it is worth noting here that stations measured 400ppm CO2 concentration for the first time in the Arctic earlier this year.  The Mauna Loa observations represent more well-mixed conditions while sites in the Arctic and elsewhere more accurately measure local and regional concentrations.

Judging by the year-over-year increases seen per month in the past 10 years, I predict 2012 will not see an average monthly concentration below 390ppm.  Last year, I predicted that 2011′s minimum would be ~388ppm.  I overestimated the minimum somewhat since both September’s and October’s measured concentrations were just under 389ppm.  So far into 2012, my prediction is holding up.

Photobucket

Figure 1 – Time series of CO2 concentrations measured at Scripp’s Mauna Loa Observatory in previous Julys: from 1958 through 2012.

This time series chart shows concentrations for the month of July in the Scripps dataset going back to 1958. As I wrote above, concentrations are persistently and inexorably moving upward. Alternatively, we could take a 10,000 year view of CO2 concentrations from ice cores and compare that to the recent Mauna Loa observations:

Photobucket

Figure 2 – Historical CO2 concentrations from ice core proxies (blue and green curves) and direct observations made at Mauna Loa, Hawai’i (red curve).

Or we could take a really, really long view:

Photobucket

Figure 3 – Historical record of CO2 concentrations from ice core proxy data, 2008 observed CO2 concentration value, and 2 potential future concentration values resulting from lower and higher emissions scenarios used in the IPCC’s AR4.

Note that this graph includes values from the past 800,000 years, 2008 observed values (~6-8ppm less than this year’s average value will be) as well as the projected concentrations for 2100 derived from a lower emissions and higher emissions scenarios used by the IPCC.  If our current emissions rate continues unabated, it looks like a tripling of average pre-industrial concentrations will be our future reality (278 *3 = 834).  This graph clearly demonstrates how anomalous today’s CO2 concentration values are.  It further shows how significant projected emission pathways are.  Note that we are on the higher emissions pathway.

Given our historical emissions to date and the likelihood that they will continue to grow at an increasing rate in the next 25 years, we will pass a number of “safe” thresholds – for all intents and purposes permanently as far as concerns our species. It is time to start seriously investigating and discussing what kind of world will exist after CO2 concentrations peak at 850 and 1100ppm. I don’t believe the IPCC or any other knowledgeable body has done this to date. To remain relevant, I think institutions who want a credible seat at the climate science-policy table will have to do so moving forward.

As the second and third graphs imply, efforts to pin any future concentration goal to a number like 350ppm or even 450ppm will be insanely difficult: 350ppm more so than 450ppm, obviously. Beyond an education tool, I don’t see the utility in using 350ppm – we simply will not achieve it, or anything close to it, given our history and likelihood that economic growth goals will trump any effort to address CO2 concentrations in the near future.  That is not to say that we should abandon hope or efforts to do something.  On the contrary, this post series is meant to inform those who are most interested in doing something.  With a solid basis in the science, we are well equipped to discuss the policy options.


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June 2012 CO2 Concentrations: 395.77ppm

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography measured an average of 395.77ppm CO2 concentration at their Mauna Loa, Hawai’i’s Observatory during May 2012.

395.77ppm is the highest value for June concentrations in recorded history. Last year’s 393.68ppm was the previous highest value ever recorded.  This June’s reading is 2.09ppm higher than last year’s.  This increase is very significant.  Of course, more significant is the unending trend toward higher concentrations with time, no matter the month or specific year-over-year value, as seen in the graphs below.

The yearly maximum monthly value normally occurs during May. This year was no different: the 396.78ppm concentration was the highest value reported this year and all time.  This May’s value is, as usual, the highest recorded this year – and thus all-time in modern history.  If we extrapolate this year’s value out in time, it will only be 2 years until Scripps reports 400ppm average concentration for a singular month (likely May 2014).  Note that I previously wrote that this wouldn’t occur until 2015.

It is worth noting here that stations measured 400ppm CO2 concentration for the first time in the Arctic earlier this year.  The Mauna Loa observations represent more well-mixed conditions while sites in the Arctic and elsewhere more accurately measure local and regional concentrations.

Judging by the year-over-year increases seen per month in the past 10 years, I predict 2012 will not see an average monthly concentration below 390ppm.  Last year, I predicted that 2011′s minimum would be ~388ppm.  I overestimated the minimum somewhat since both September’s and October’s measured concentrations were just under 389ppm.  So far into 2012, my prediction is holding up.

CO2Now has the following graph on their front page:

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It shows concentrations for the month of June (with a typo in their chart’s title) in the Scripps dataset going back to 1958. As I wrote above, concentrations are persistently and inexorably moving upward. Alternatively, we could take a much longer view of CO2 concentrations:

Photobucket

Or we could take a really, really long view:

Photobucket

Note that this graph includes values from the past 800,000 years, 2008 observed values (~6-8ppm less than this year’s average value will be) as well as the projected concentrations for 2100 derived from a lower emissions and higher emissions scenarios used by the IPCC.  If our current emissions rate continues unabated, it looks like a tripling of average pre-industrial concentrations will be our future reality (278 *3 = 834).

Given our historical emissions to date and the likelihood that they will continue to grow at an increasing rate in the next 25 years, we will pass a number of “safe” thresholds – for all intents and purposes permanently as far as concerns our species. It is time to start seriously investigating and discussing what kind of world will exist after CO2 concentrations peak at 850 and 1100ppm. I don’t believe the IPCC or any other knowledgeable body has done this to date. To remain relevant, I think institutions who want a credible seat at the table will have to do so moving forward.

As the second and third graphs imply, efforts to pin any future concentration goal to a number like 350ppm or even 450ppm will be insanely difficult: 350ppm more so than 450ppm, obviously. Beyond an education tool, I don’t see the utility in using 350ppm – we simply will not achieve it, or anything close to it, given our history and likelihood that economic growth goals will trump any effort to address CO2 concentrations.


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May 2012 CO2 Concentrations: 396.78ppm

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography measured an average of 396.78ppm CO2 concentration at their Mauna Loa, Hawai’i’s Observatory during May 2012.

396.78ppm is the highest value for May concentrations in recorded history. Last year’s 394.16ppm was the previous highest value ever recorded.  This May’s reading is 2.62ppm higher than last year’s.  This increase is very significant.  Of course, more significant is the unending trend toward higher concentrations with time, no matter the month or specific year-over-year value.

The yearly maximum monthly value normally occurs during May. Last year was no different: the 394.34 concentration was the highest value reported last year and, prior to the past two months, all time.  This May’s value is, as usual, the highest recorded this year – and thus all-time in modern history.  If we extrapolate last year’s value out in time, it will only be 2 years until Scripps reports 400ppm average concentration for a singular month (likely May 2014).  Note that I wrote in past posts that this wouldn’t occur until 2015.

It is worth noting here that stations measured 400ppm CO2 concentration for the first time in the Arctic earlier this year.  The Mauna Loa observations represent more well-mixed conditions while sites in the Arctic and elsewhere more accurately measure local and regional concentrations.

Judging by the year-over-year increases seen per month in the past 10 years, I predict 2012 will not see an average monthly concentration below 390ppm.  Last year, I predicted that 2011′s minimum would be ~388ppm.  I overestimated the minimum somewhat since both September’s and October’s measured concentrations were just under 389ppm.  So far into 2012, my prediction is holding up.

CO2Now has the following graph on their front page:

Photobucket

It shows concentrations for the month of May in the Scripps dataset going back to 1958. As I wrote above, concentrations are persistently and inexorably moving upward. Alternatively, we could take a much longer view of CO2 concentrations:

Photobucket

Given our historical emissions to date and the likelihood that they will continue to grow at an increasing rate in the next 25 years, we will pass a number of “safe” thresholds – for all intents and purposes permanently as far as concerns our species. It is time to start seriously investigating and discussing what kind of world will exist after CO2 concentrations peak at 850 and 1100ppm. I don’t believe the IPCC or any other knowledgeable body has done this to date. To remain relevant, I think the IPCC will have to do so moving forward.

As the second graph implies, efforts to pin any future concentration goal to a number like 350ppm or even 450ppm will be insanely difficult: 350ppm more so than 450ppm, obviously. Beyond an education tool, I don’t see the utility in using 350ppm – we simply will not achieve it, or anything close to it, given our history and likelihood that economic growth goals will trump any effort to address CO2 concentrations.


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April 2012 CO2 Concentrations: 396.18ppm

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography measured an average of 396.18ppm CO2 concentration at their Mauna Loa, Hawai’i’s Observatory during April 2012.

396.18ppm is the highest value for Aprilconcentrations in recorded history. Last year’s 393.28ppm was the previous highest value ever recorded.  This April’s reading is 2.90ppm higher than last year’s.  This increase is very significant.  Of course, more significant is the unending trend toward higher concentrations with time, no matter the month or specific year-over-year value.

The yearly maximum monthly value normally occurs during May. Last year was no different: the 394.34 concentration was the highest value reported last year and, prior to the past two months, all time.  If we extrapolate last year’s value out in time, it will only be 3 years until Scripps reports 400ppm average concentration for a singular month (likely May 2015).

Judging by the year-over-year increases seen per month in the past 10 years, I predict 2012 will not see a monthly concentration below 390ppm.  Last year, I predicted that 2011′s minimum would be ~388ppm.  I overestimated the minimum somewhat since both September’s and October’s measured concentrations were just under 389ppm.  So far into 2012, my prediction is holding up.

CO2Now has the following graph on their front page:

It shows concentrations in the Scripps dataset going back to 1958.  As I wrote above, concentrations are persistently and inexorably moving upward.

Given our historical emissions to date and the likelihood that they will continue to grow at an increasing rate in the next 25 years, we will pass a number of “safe” thresholds – for all intents and purposes permanently as far as concerns our species.  It is time to start seriously investigating and discussing what kind of world will exist after CO2 concentrations peak at 850 and 1100ppm.  I don’t believe the IPCC or any other relevant body has done this to date.  To remain relevant, I think the IPCC will have to do so moving forward.

Additionally, efforts to pin any future concentration goal to a number like 350ppm or even 450ppm will be insanely difficult: 350ppm more so than 450ppm.  Beyond an education tool, I don’t see the utility in using 350ppm – we simply will not achieve it, or anything close to it, given our history and likelihood that economic growth goals will trump any effort to address CO2 concentrations.


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March 2012 CO2 Concentrations: 394.45ppm

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography measured an average of 394.45ppm CO2 concentration at their Mauna Loa, Hawai’i’s Observatory during March 2012.

394.45ppm is the highest value for March concentrations in recorded history. Last year’s 392.40 was the previous highest value ever recorded.  This March’s reading is 2.05ppm higher than last year’s.  As I’ve written before, this increase is significant.  Of course, more significant is the unending trend toward higher concentrations with time, no matter the month or specific year-over-year value.

The yearly maximum monthly value normally occurs during May. Last year was no different: the 394.34 concentration was the highest value reported last year and, prior this month, all time.  If we extrapolate last year’s value out in time, it will only be 3 years until Scripp’s reports 400ppm average concentration for a singular month (likely May 2015).

Judging by the year-over-year increases seen per month in the past 10 years, I predict 2012 will not see a monthly concentration below 390ppm.  Last year, I predicted that 2011′s minimum would be ~388ppm.  I overestimated the minimum somewhat since both September’s and October’s measured concentrations were just under 389ppm.  So far into 2012, my prediction is holding up.

CO2Now has the following graph on their front page:

It shows concentrations in the Scripps dataset going back to 1958.  As I wrote above, concentrations are persistently and inexorably moving upward.

Given our historical emissions to date and the likelihood that they will continue to grow at an increasing rate in the next 25 years, we will pass a number of “safe” thresholds – for all intents and purposes permanently as far as concerns our species.  It is time to start seriously investigating and discussing what kind of world will exist after CO2 concentrations peak at 850 and 1100ppm.  I don’t believe the IPCC or any other relevant body has done this to date.  To remain relevant, I think the IPCC will have to do so moving forward.

Additionally, efforts to pin any future concentration goal to a number like 350ppm or even 450ppm will be insanely difficult: 350ppm more so than 450ppm.  Beyond an education tool, I don’t see the utility in using 350ppm – we simply will not achieve it, or anything close to it, given our history and likelihood that economic growth goals will trump any effort to address CO2 concentrations.


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February 2012 CO2 Concentrations: 393.65ppm

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography measured an average of 393.65ppm CO2 concentration at their Mauna Loa, Hawai’i’s Observatory during February 2012.  These readings are from the Scripps’ dataset, not NOAA’s, which was my original data source when this series began.

393.65ppm is the highest value for February concentrations in recorded history. Last year’s 391.76 was the previous highest value ever recorded.  This February’s reading is 1.89ppm higher than last year’s.  As I’ve written before, this increase is significant.  Of course, more significant is the unending trend toward higher concentrations with time, no matter the month or specific year-over-year value.

The yearly maximum monthly value normally occurs during May. Last year was no different: the 394.34 concentration is the highest value reported both last year and all time.  If we extrapolate last year’s value out in time, it will only be 3 years until Scripp’s reports 400ppm average concentration for a singular month (likely May 2015).

Judging by the year-over-year increases seen per month in the past 10 years, I predict 2012 will not see a monthly concentration below 390ppm.  I had earlier predicted that 2011′s minimum would be ~388ppm.  I overestimated the minimum somewhat since both September’s and October’s measured concentrations were just under 389ppm.  One month into 2012 and so far I’m spot on.

CO2Now has the following graph on their front page:

It shows concentrations in the Scripps dataset going back to 1958.  As I wrote above, concentrations are persistently and inexorably moving upward.

Given our historical emissions to date and the likelihood that they will continue to grow at an increasing rate in the next 25 years, we will pass a number of “safe” thresholds – for all intents and purposes permanently as far as concerns our species.  It is time to start seriously investigating and discussing what kind of world will exist after CO2 concentrations peak at 850 and 1100ppm.  I don’t believe the IPCC has done this to date.  To remain relevant, I think it will have to do so moving forward.

Additionally, efforts to pin any future concentration goal to a number like 350ppm or even 450ppm will be insanely difficult: 350ppm more so than 450ppm.  Beyond an education tool, I don’t see the utility in using 350ppm – we simply will not achieve it, or anything close to it, given our history and likelihood that economic growth goals will trump any effort to address CO2 concentrations.

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