Global Warming  Elmhurst College
Carbon Dioxide & Temperature Carbon Dioxide - Fossil Fuels  Chemistry Department
Carbon Dioxide - Atmosphere Greenhouse Gases    Virtual ChemBook

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Carbon Dioxide Concentrations in the Atmosphere

Carbon Dioxide Concentrations in the Atmosphere

A closer look at the carbon dioxide changes within the last thousand years can be seen in the graphic on the left. The concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, were measured in the bubbles from an Antarctic ice core from Law Dome near Australia's Casey Station. The Law Dome ice core is at a location where the snow accumulation is much higher than at Vostok. Thus, the time scale for the Law Dome core is expanded and it can provide us with more detailed information about recent climate changes.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide measured in the air bubbles trapped in the ice are shown in Antarctic ice core from Law Dome near Australia's Casey Station.

Concentration of Carbon Dioxide from trapped air measurements for the DE08 ice core near the summit of Law Dome, Antarctica. (Data measured by CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research from ice cores supplied by Australian Antarctic Division). Dr. T.H. Jacka, Glaciology Program,Antarctic Cooperative Research Centre and Australian Antarctic Division.

QUES. a: Explain what is significant about the change in carbon dioxide concentration with time as viewed in the graphic?

QUES. b: What energy consuming and carbon dioxide producing events were taking place in most of the Northern Hemisphere at the time, (1850, 1900 and years following), of the dramatic increase in the carbon dioxide concentration?

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Present Day Concentrations of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere:

Mauna Loa is a mountain on the island of Hawaii. The data collected at Mauna Loa has demonstrated conclusively that the amount of carbon-dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is rising rapidly. Carbon dioxide is an invisible gas that is harmless to humans. In fact, we breathe out carbon dioxide every time we breath. Both carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are produced by burning fossil fuels (gas, coal,and oil).

The Mauna Loa carbon dioxide data set is the largest continuous record, 35 years, in existence of atmospheric carbon-dioxide. Unfortunately, this is still a very short time on the scale that climate is often studied, which can span thousands of years. One of the most arresting facts about the data is how fast the levels of CO2 is climbing. The speed or rate of change (about 1.2 ppm per year) is widely believed to unparalleled in the history of the earth.

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Monthly Variation of Carbon Dioxide Concentration:

The monthly variation of carbon dioxide over the period of a year is an interesting set of data ,

Monthly carbon dioxide Variation graphic.

The cyclic change is caused by the seasonal variation of the growth of vegetation from the Northern Hemisphere. Starting in May the growth of plants and trees uses carbon dioxide, so the concentration decreases a little bit. Starting in October, November the growth ceases, thus causing the carbon dioxide to increase.

A three dimensional view of the carbon dioxide seasonal variation and years, plotted against latitude.

The Carbon Cycle Group of the NOAA Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory (CMDL).