For the first time in four million years, carbon dioxide levels in the South Pole exceeded 400 parts per million. It seems that greenhouse gasses released by humans in the Northern Hemisphere have finally reached some of the world’s farthest corners — where they could remain in the atmosphere for centuries.
The chart below shows readings at the South Pole from 2014 to present, as recorded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s greenhouse gas monitoring network:
Daily average carbon dioxide levels rose to a new high level of 400 parts per million on May 23 for the first time in four million years. (Chart: NOAA)
“The far Southern Hemisphere was the last place on Earth where CO2 had not yet reached this mark,” said Pieter Tans, lead scientist for the NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, in a statement earlier this week. “Global CO2 levels will not return to values below 400 ppm in our lifetimes, and almost certainly for much longer.”
While news of the troubling turning point was released by the NOAA earlier this week, researchers at the South Pole Observatory carbon dioxide observing station first became aware of the heightened CO2 levels last month. Atmospheric CO2 levels have been steadily increasing each year since observations began in 1958.