National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration Addresses Rising CO2 Levels

noaa overlook

(Credit: NOAA)

by | Jun 6, 2023

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The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography revealed a significant increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels that demands urgent attention, especially impacting industries and uses that depend on the natural environment. With CO2 reaching 424 parts per million (ppm) in May, the highest levels in millions of years, it is evident that human activities are significantly contributing to this global crisis. 

Rising CO2 Levels

The correlation between increasing CO2 levels and climate change is well-established. Heatwaves, droughts, flooding, wildfires, and severe storms are becoming more frequent and intense, resulting in substantial economic and social disruptions. With elevated levels of CO2, the world’s oceans are also being immensely impacted.

According to NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, “Every year we see carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere increase as a direct result of human activity. Every year, we see the impacts of climate change in the heat waves, droughts, flooding, wildfires and storms happening all around us. While we will have to adapt to the climate impacts we cannot avoid, we must expend every effort to slash carbon pollution and safeguard this planet and the life that calls it home.” 

Ocean Acidification and Disrupted Ecosystems

The rising levels of carbon are contributing to ocean acidification, which is caused by the absorption of CO2 gas, and in turn, endangers marine ecosystems. Rising temperatures and disrupted chemical balance are harming these marine organisms, ultimately hindering their growth and survival. 

Industries dependent on marine resources, such as fisheries and tourism, face significant threats from this environmental degradation.

The Impact of the Mauna Loa Eruption on Observations

This year, NOAA’s measurements were obtained from a temporary sampling site atop the nearby Mauna Kea volcano, which was gathered after lava cut off access to the observatory in November 2022. The eruption of Mauna Loa volcano resulted in the suspension of NOAA and Scripps observatory operations due to the destruction of access roads and power transmission lines. This interruption emphasized the vulnerability of monitoring systems and the need for backup installations to maintain crucial data collection.

NOAA and Scripps implemented temporary installations on Mauna Kea volcano to resume carbon measurements. Although these sites offer undisturbed air sampling, maintaining consistent data across locations is crucial for accurate analysis and policy-making.

Rising carbon dioxide levels pose significant threats to the environment, including climate change, extreme weather events, and the deterioration of marine ecosystems. The temporary disruption in CO2 measurements at the Mauna Loa observatory highlights the need to stabilize CO2 levels.

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