2015 Saw an Unprecedented Spike in CO2 Levels
The annual growth rate of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose more in 2015 than scientists have ever seen in a single year.
The annual growth rate of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose more in 2015 than scientists have ever seen in a single year, based on measurements made at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.
SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE
You've heard a lot about how human-driven climate change will lead to hotter temperatures, cause sea levels to rise and make storms more intense. But it's projected to have plenty of other unpleasant and even disastrous effects as well. Here are 10 of them. Scientists believe that rising temperatures will lead to increased evaporation of the Great Lakes' water, and precipitation won't make up the difference. That means we're likely to see declines in water levels over the next century, and one study predicts they may drop as much as 8 feet.Earth Shots: Must See Planet Pics (Sept. 21)
Carolina Biological Supply Company, via Flickr
Thanks to climate change, jumbo-sized ragweed plants will spew out more pollen for a longer, more miserable allergy season.Here Are 10 Striking Images Of Future Sea Levels
CDC/ Dr. Scott Smith
By altering the wild environment, climate change makes it easier for newly mutated microbes to jump between species, and it's likely that as a result, diseases will emerge and spread across the globe even more rapidly.
RZuljani via Wikimedia Commons
A recent Nature article reported that male Australian central bearded dragons have been growing female genitalia because of rising temperatures, a phenomenon that had not previously been observed in that species.10 Signs Climate Change Is Already Happening
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Rising sea levels are wiping out beaches all over the world already. Importing fresh sand and building them up again is only a temporary solution. To make matters worse, there's currently a sand shortage, due to demand from fracking, glass and cement making.
SB_Johnny via Wikimedia Commons
Bark beetles are eating old growth forests, because the winters aren't cold enough to kill them off. So more trees like this American Elm will die.VIDEO: Global Warming And Climate Change: What's The Diff?
Axel Rouvin via Wikimedia Commons
Warmer temperatures mean there will be more water vapor trapped in the atmosphere, leading to more lightning. A University of California-Berkeley study predicts that lightning strikes will increase by about 12 percent for every degree Celsius gained.Sierra Nevada Snowpack Worst In Five Centuries
Patrick Gruban, via Wikimedia Commons
Wine grape harvests are being hurt. Regions that have historically supplied the world’s best wine will no longer be hospitable climates to grow wine grapes, according to research by the Environmental Defense Fund and others.
rohsstreetcafe via Wikimedia Commons
Coffee flavor depends upon really narrow conditions of temperature and moisture, and climate change is going to wreak havoc with that. Worse yet, as coffee growing regions become warmer, pests that couldn't survive in the past will ravage the crops. This is already being seen in Costa Rica, India and Ethiopia, which have experienced sharp declines in crop yields.California Drought by the Numbers
The annual growth rate of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose more in 2015 than scientists have ever seen in a single year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday.
It was the fourth year in a row that carbon dioxide concentrations grew by more than 2 parts per million, with an annual growth rate of 3.05 parts per million in 2015. The spike comes in the same year that Earth reached an ominous global warming milestone — scientists last year measured the highest atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide ever recorded.
Carbon dioxide emissions from people burning fossil fuels are the driving force behind climate change and have risen to greater than 400 ppm — more than 120 ppm above pre-industrial levels. Earth has warmed more than 1.6°F over that period.
As of February, the average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in the earth's atmosphere was about 402.6 ppm, according to NOAA data. The findings are based on measurements made at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.
“Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years," Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA's Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, said in a statement.
The rate of increase in carbon dioxide concentrations is 200 times faster than the previous extreme jump between 11,000 and 17,000 years ago, when levels rose 80 ppm over about 6,000 years.
NOAA scientists are blaming last year's spike in carbon dioxide concentrations on what will likely be the most extremeEl Niño ever recorded, as ecosystems respond to the changes in temperature and precipitation it has caused.
Recent Monthly Average Mauna Loa CO2 reading.ESRL/NOAA
Michael Mann, an atmospheric science professor and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, who is unaffiliated with NOAA, said the carbon dioxide milestone shouldn't be over-interpreted.
“This spike is almost certainly due in substantial part to the ongoing El Niño event, which is a fleeting effect that increases carbon dioxide concentrations temporarily," Mann said. “Carbon dioxide concentrations are a lagging indicator, and they don't accurately reflect recent trends in the more important variable — our actual carbon emissions."
Emissions, he said, have stabilized somewhat in recent years and dropped slightly in 2015, reflecting human progress in transitioning away from a fossil fuel economy, he said.
“Those are the numbers to keep a close eye on," he said. “If they continue to decline, we will see carbon dioxide concentrations beginning to stabilize.
More From Climate Central:
- U.S., Canada Pact Targets Lesser Known Climate Impacts
- China's Carbon Emissions May Have Peaked Already
- Study: California Methane Leak Largest in U.S. History
This article originally appeared on Climate Central, all rights reserved.