Keeling’s Curve: The Story of CO2 – Science Bulletins – AMNH

Keeling’s Curve: The Story of CO2 was produced by Laura Allen for the Science Bulletins of the American Museum of Natural History. Science Bulletins is a production of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History.

Ice cores drilled from the glaciers, Greenland and the Antarctic have shown that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is tightly linked to the average temperature of the Earth. PETM.

However, the motivation behind all the ice core drilling came after an intriguing discovery. In 1958, a young geochemist Charles Keeling began measuring CO2 atop a Hawaiian volcano regularly. Based on these observations we now know that atmospheric carbondiokside is increasing very fast. In fact, you can check the most up to date atmospheric CO2 reading from Hawaii yourself.

Atmospheric CO2 is so important that now there is a dedicated satellite to measure it. Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (first one burned up in a failed rocket launch) is currently measuring CO2 globally making a pass from the same point every 16 days:

OCO-2 will not be measuring CO2 directly; but actually, the intensity of the sunlight reflected from the presence of CO2 in a column of air. This measurement is unique like a fingerprint, and can be used for identification. The OCO-2 instrument will use a diffraction grating (like the back of a compact disk) to separate the incoming sunlight into a spectrum of multiple component colors.

The following video shows atmospheric CO2 levels measured by a network of stations around the world and later compares these concentrations with those going back to 800 thousand years based on ice core data:

Increase in atmospheric CO2 brings another global problem called Ocean Acidification which will affect fisheries by disrupting the very base of the food-webs. Increasing acidity makes it corrosive dissolving the calcium shells of marine organisms.

 

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