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Mauna Loa Observatory Records 387 ppm CO2; Highest in 650,000 Years

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has published data collected at its Mauna Loa atmospheric baseline observatory in Hawai’i showing that atmospheric CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa has reached 387 part per million by volume (ppmv), the highest concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere in the last 650,000 years.

Click to enlarge.

On average, the annual mean increase per year is accelerating, averaging 2.1 ppmv per year since 2000. Pre-industrial revolution carbon dioxide levels were about 280 ppm, or about 60% of today’s levels.

Historical atmospheric CO2 concentrations that predate direct measurement are calculated using a range of proxy data collected from air bubbles trapped in ice cores that have been extricated from areas such as the West Antarctica Ice Sheet (WAIS) and the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS). Ice cores have been drilled as deep as 3,100 meters, or almost two miles.

The Mauna Loa observatory, which is sited on the Mauna Loa volcano, was the site of early CO2 monitoring by Charles David Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, beginning in 1957.

—Jack Rosebro



global warming is a hoax!


Nice try mate


I realize I am not a big brain, but if you are comparing Co2 levels should you be comparing samles from a permafost location an active volcano location. Would it not make sence to do them in the same location?


The idea with getting samples in hawaii is because it is in an area where the co2 levels will be the least affected by external factors. The ice core records are similarly isolated unless of course you believe there were consistant forest fires upwind for 650000 years.

tom deplume

Mauna Loa is not an active volcano!!! It is a dormant if not extinct volcanic mountain. In addition to the CO2 monitoring it is also home to two of the largest optical telescopes in the world, the Keck optical interferometer. Astronomers are smart enough to not build very expensive equipment on an active volcano. It seems climate deniers are also ignorant of realities of geography.


Hi Loune,

Apparently the measurements are adjusted for the local outgassing of CO2 by the volcano. The Volcano is not completely dormant, with the last event in 1984. Recent activity is believed to be caused by the filling of the magma chamber.

At least that is what it says here:

The advantage of being out in the middle of the Pacific, is that manmade sources will presumably diffuse, and mix with the rest of the atmosphere sufficiently that the CO2 levels at Mauna Loa can be considerd a planetary mean.

Say you measured the CO2 in Bermuda. Well, you would be down wind from the US most of the time.

As CO2 is heavier than the rest of air, measuring up high helps with the consistency of the measurement.


I'm not sure I trust this study as any reading for current day weather trends. I think there are to many unknowns still in our weather system that may not be accurately modeled.

These are estimations. CO2 might have been at higher levels "650,000" years ago. C02 seeps out. How can they accurately predict seepage? Higher CO2 levels in the past would be more in line with plant fossil evidence. It would explain the size of a healthy planet past, where large foliage and plant materials have been discovered from anartica to siberia. There was a much more robust plant and animal life.

If anything, it is lack of C02 that is the real scare.
If not for adequate CO2 levels, large trees, fauna and the total amount of life on this planet cannot flourish. Just not sure I trust this type of historical readings. OR that they fully understand or know how the feedback system works for this planet now, much less millions of years ago.

My questions are...
Did temperatures match the CO2 levels? If not, why such a discrepency between then and now? And why wouldn't that hurt the study? Are they claiming the temperatures were 40% lower along with CO2 levels? If not, why not? If CO2 levels match temperature trends. Then they must have matched fully then. What was life like back then?

Recent temps do not correlate with temperature increase. We've run flat since 98. And there has been a recent downward trend showing a cooling pattern just this last year. Plus NASA readjusted the temps for a year 2000 glitch downward. This dropped what was the highest recent temps out of the top ten. I believe what was 6 in top ten down to 1 or 2?

I'm not convinced it is CO2 that is the major problem that would cause any large variances outside the norm temperatures of clouds and precipitation which contributes or more accurately provides the feedback loop of over 90% to natural warming and cooling patterns in the temperatures we see today. What percentage is CO2?

I support all the latest technology for energy efficiency and independence from foreign oil.

But, I'd rather our nation focus more effort on energy efficiency than on CO2. If vehicle transportation cuts fuel usage in half, that roughtly cuts by half CO2 production. You can accomplish CO2 reduction by efficiency first.

There needs to be some practical tradeoffs and some priorities. To not stymie production with over regulation based on possible models of climate that may be found wrong in the future.

I realize I'll probably get hammered here for these views. But I just hope progress in energy independence is not held back for the wrong reason. Spending time, money and resources on cleantech, that can be a second priority. Plesse note that I'm addressing only CO2, not any other pollutants.


The other key measuring station for atmospheric Co2 levels is in Tasmania,which has some of the cleanest air in the inhabited workld, and no active volcanoes for thousands of km's.


Aym, I am not a climate denier. The nature of earths climate is to change anyone who has a brain knows this. The question is can we and should we try to do any thing about it. Mother Earth has a pretty good if sometimes violent way of restoring balance. If the exact location is not active I know their is one near by. Not to mention Ocean life an plant life would skew the results. It only makes sence if your using core samples from one location that you would take samples from the same location. I am amazed by the willinness of people to believe what ever they here. What everhappend to Questioning Authority?


Here's how the Earth purges itself of life:
First it gets a little warm.
Then methane hydrates in the ocean begin to evaporate.
Then temperatures rise 20 degrees fahrenheit.
Then you die. You, as in your species.
It's happened before, but not very often. It takes a long time to happen and a very long time to fix.

Right now, Russian scientists (whose government would hardly benefit from carbon restrictions) are measuring a rise in methane levels over the Arctic Ocean. Research must be done to discover whether the increase is due to ordinary organic matter floating in the ocean, or due to evaporating methane hydrates.

If it turns out to be the latter, then pray to your God, get a gun and hunt down everyone you want revenge against, take an overdose of heroin. It won't matter what we do, or how we apportion the blame. If the hydrates have already begun to evaporate then it's too late for all of us.

If it's just rotting seaweed this time, take a deep breath and consider what's really important in the long run.

Harvey D


You probably won't believe it, but according to many in depth studies, there is a close relationship between CO² levels and temperatures.

During the last 400 000 years, everytime (5 times) CO² level reached about 300 ppm, temperatures went up by +3ºC above average. When CO² progressively fell to about 200 ppm, temperatures went down by about -8ºC below average. The total temperature swings between CO² level of 200 and 300 ppm were about 11º C.

With a possible all time high CO² of 500+ ppm by 2100, temperatures may go even higher.

Granted, there are most probably other contributing factors, but CO² seems to be a major one. Since the cycles are about 75000 to 100 000 years long, we will certainly not be around long enough to see a complete one. However, if you are very young, you may witness some of the effects of the current warming up cycle. If not, your children and grand children will.


Harvy D,

I remember looking at that data last year. You are right there is a correlation between temperature and CO2. But, it's the other way around. CO2 seems to follow temperature rise and fall.

That said, I am anxious to get off oil (as, I'm sure you are) and power our vehicles with electricity. Then, we concentrate on cleaning up the grid, starting with the worst offenders.


According to the USGS "Mauna Loa is among Earth's most active volcanoes." Google "Mauna Loa" for links.

The Keck observatory is actually on Mauna Kea, and the USGS says "Mauna Kea is presently a dormant volcano."

The most active volcano on the Big Island is Kilauea, which has been continuously active since 1983.

Andrey Levin

Claim that current CO2 concentrations are highest in 650 000 years is bogus. It is simply incorrect to compare yearly instrumental record with 1000-year smoothed CO2 concentrations in ice cores. Atmospheric CO2 proxies using stomata reconstructions have much better resolution, and they indicate that in last 2-3 thousand years CO2 concentrations occasionally were even higher than today.

BTW, anyone noticed that yearly smoothed CO2 concentrations (blue line on the graph) took a deep, in full correlations with resent colder ocean surface temperatures?

Andrey Levin


Reconstructions of atmosphere temperatures and CO2 concentrations derived from ice cores unanimously indicate that CO2 rises were trailing temperature increases by 500-1000 years. This fact was well known at the time of creation of Inconvenient Truth, so Al Gore graph presentation was clear fraud.

CO2 lag does not mean that CO2 is not a contributor to warming, but it does mean that it is not major contributor.

As for witnessing of climatic changes, we all were observers of 1977-2000 warming due to positive phase of Pacific Decadal Oscillation (Google or Wiki PDO), and currently are witnessing beginning of cooling (last 16 months) 30-years phase. Lets hope that cooling will be shallow. US Department of Agriculture predicts 10% reduction in US corn harvest this year due to late, wet, and cold spring and incoming cool summer (mostly due to cold La Nina).



".. [2014 will] "be 0.30 degrees ± 0.2 degrees C warmer than the observed value for 2004."

Hadley Center Climate Prediction, Science Journal 2007

"Thus, based on our results we don't expect an increase in the mean temperature of the next decade (2005-2015)."

IPCC lead author, Dr. Noel Keenlyside, Journal Nature, May, 2008

AGW war is over. Give peace a chance.


I think we need the full picture from the Hadley Centre before we consign AGW to the history books, Sulleny:

"In future, we will continue to see global temperatures rise and fall year-on-year. This does not mean that global warming has stopped; only that the continuing rise in temperatures due to man made emissions of greenhouse gases is being temporarily masked."


I'm just waiting for the announcement that the corals and shellfish will be gone sooner than the currently predicted 40 years because of increased CO2 in the oceans.

richard schumacher

The present pause in *atmospheric* warming is a trap for the unwary and gullible. Global warming is roaring right along as before, but the trapped heat is going into the deep ocean: in other words it's warming sea water. When La Nina and the Pacific oscillation circulations end that heat will resume warming the atmosphere.

Andrey Levin

Bravo, Richard!

Now have a courage to make next step: admit that 1977-2000 warming was not entirely due to CO2 increase.

The third, final step, would be to deduct influence of multidecadal oceanic oscillations from temperature record. The result will be stable warming of about 0.2C per century for almost 200 years (started lo-o-ong before humans started to pump CO2 in atmosphere in quantities), as Earth recovers from Little Ice Age.



Thanks for civil response. And others. I'm trying to stay open minded, but remain skeptical. Reading all sides of the debate.

For my part the debate is over for energy dependence on foreign oil. That much is obvious and the most important issue. I have different thoughts of compromise for how to move towards energy independence faster. Favoring a broader approach to utilize all our resources until clean tech saturates our markets.

I do not doubt most studies show a correlation with temp and CO2. I do doubt they're correct. As George pointed out it appears now to be "as a result" of increased temperatures.

One study shows current climate models do not accurately predict long term events from a historical perspective. They conclude future modeling results therefore to be incorrect.

Quotes from the study, page 20 conclusions:

"• The huge negative values of coefficients of efficiency at those scales show that model
predictions are much poorer that an elementary prediction based on the time average.
• This makes future climate projections not credible."

Here is a link to the study:

I quoted from the PDF presentation link.

info: National Technical University of Athens.
signatures: Koutsoyiannis, D., N. Mamassis, A. Christofides, A. Efstratiadis, and S.M. Papalexiou title: Assessment of the reliability of climate predictions based on comparisons with historical time series,
presented to: European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2008, Geophysical Research Abstracts, Vol. 10, Vienna, 09074, European Geosciences Union, 2008.

Predictions made last year were wrong and had to be scaled back for hurricanes. This year they're predicting a larger hurricane season. They may well be right. But then, that would make their predictions 50/50 in short term, annual climate change. I could flip a coin and possibly match our climatologist.

Thus, with observations of new studies I remain skeptical of long term predictions. Especially when even short term predictiosn are 50/50.

What I do support is full steam ahead priority based shift to more efficient energy use. I support all the alt energy pathways from solar to battery, wind and biofuels(that do not effect food supply).

Our nation and world leaders panicked. As a result, food supply and prices are disrupted around the world. Even Europe recognized this folly. So I favor a more balanced approach. One that recognizes priorities.

Miles EV site promote one of their vehicles cuts 13,000lbs of CO2. I think that is great and I also think it is practical. It will do both priorities at cost efficient methods. It will help eliminate oil dependency and cut CO2. I favor such approaches.

But I question CO2 sequestration techniques that reduce efficiency. And spending billions that may not be necessary for mandates based on faulty climate models. The less oil our nation uses obviously the better and that alone cuts CO2 levels. But there may be a certain amount of acceptable levels until we reduce oil dependency, then proceed full bore on clean tech.

There are many good advances coming online in 2010. We reached the tipping point for a new paradigm in transportation. So I think we are finally on the right path to a more clean environment and moving off oil.

But I still doubt correlation of CO2 and temperature as is being pushed by IPCC and Gore. I think correlations are as stated by George, a cause and effect reversal. Temperature proceeds CO2 levels. And we have not yet adequately included other variables for long term models predictions.


Looks like clime science is somewhat baffled about the effects of ocean events on global temperatures:

""The global climate is currently being influenced by the cold phase of this oscillation, known as La Niña (see Expert speaks on La Niña). The current La Niña began to develop in early 2007, having a significant cooling effect on the global average temperature."
Met Office April 29, Press Release quoted by Scatter

"It turned out that there were alternating strips of water running eastward or westward, a bit like parallel moving sidewalks. Niiler recalls his reaction: “My God, we’ve never seen these before..."
Peter Niiler, Scripps Institute Oceanography

The flows extend right down to the ocean floor, and the boundaries between currents are alternately associated with peaks and troughs in temperature as well as sea level. This suggests that they influence processes such as nutrient and energy flow around the oceans, but this has yet to be proven, says Niiler."

Guess it's fair to say the "debate ISN'T over." Give peace a chance.


News just in: Scientists don't know everything yet!

I'm confused though, first post you were saying the "AGW war", whatever that is, is over. Now you're saying it's not.

That research is fascinating but let's see what happens when the data's plugged into climate models before triumphantly announcing the death of global warming.


AGWar is over. Debate is an inherent part of healthy science. And, plugging new data into models may not yield accurate prediction:

"model predictions are much poorer that an elementary prediction based on the time average."

Michael's reference to the NTUA study. I suspect your "confusion" to be marginally disingenuous;)


Deniers fight tooth & nail, every tick of the rising numbers....387 parts per million can't be right. & it isn't. 387ppm is the volume measure. 584ppm is the mass measure, the actual 'weight' measure. By the year 2050, carbon dioxide by weight will be 700ppm.

Deniers like to write carbon dioxide atmospheric quantity as 0.035%. They like to use older data too. That is why they are so vociferous about this new number, 0.0387%. Then they say, its so small....just a tick. & man can't be the causative factor because man is so...small. But remember...carbon dioxide is really 0.0584%, by 2050, 0.0700%.

Some decades after 2050, carbon dioxide will be 0.1000%. Whoa! Now that is a different number. 0.1% is actually 1 tenth of 1 percent. People intuitively know that 1 tenth of 1 percent CAN affect things. So even the way deniers want to write carbon dioxide...people know.

Man dumps 19 billion TONS(2000 times more than pounds) into the atmosphere per year. At current rates, in 52 years, 1 trillion tons(2000 million million pounds) of carbon dioxide is dumped into the air. Now people really know what's going on, what is going into the air we breathe, which affects us much.

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