World Atmosphere - Carbon Dioxide Levels

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Published by Katie Stokes

Environment - World Atmosphere - Carbon Dioxide Levels (from Scripps & NOAA)
John S. Stokes III

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the number one greenhouse gas in the atmosphere in terms of effect (quantity x potency)

Monthly CO2 levels (parts per million)
March 1958 through December 2020
Derived from in situ air measurements at Mauna Loa, Observatory, Hawaii

Monthly CO2 levels (parts per million)
This chart is updated once a year after each year's data is in, usually by mid January

Source file obtained at
Wavy line sourced from column 9 in the data file: monthly "Mauna Loa CO2 concentrations in micro-mol CO2 per mole (ppm), reported on the 2008A SIO manometric mole fraction scale".
This is the "standard version of the data most often sought". Several instances of missing data filled with smoothed data (in column 7 of the data file).
Smoother line sourced from column 10 in the data file, derived from the same source data but with seasonality smooth out.
Daily twitter postings of the CO2 reading is at Twitter Keeling Curve
The website with the latest CO2 reading may be obtained at Keeling Curve

Credits excerpted here from the file's header section
Atmospheric CO2 concentrations (ppm) derived from in situ air measurements
at Mauna Loa, Observatory, Hawaii: Latitude 19.5° North Longitude 155.6° West, Elevation 3397 meters
Source: R. F. Keeling, S. J. Walker, S. C. Piper and A. F. Bollenbacher
Scripps CO2 Program ( )
Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO)
University of California
La Jolla, California USA 92093-0244

Zoom out 800,000 years and you get this:
Although there have been substantial variations in the CO2 reading during the past 800,000 years, the number as of late November 2014 is wow-wow-wow.
Chart derived from image at Keeling Curve 800,000 Years
Note: at the end of 2017, the star should be drawn off the chart!

Detailed time-lapse video produced by NASA showing how CO2 emissions move in the atmosphere during the course of one year:

Certainly provides a reason why ice has been melting in the Arctic vs the Antarctic

CO2 Emissions by major regions on Earth

© The New York Times
Graphic screen captured from the New York Times' website November 13, 2014

As of January 2020, this 2014 carbon emissions chart is now more than 5 years out of date.
Starting in 2017, the United States government has been rolling back regulations see
If anyone has an update for this chart, contact me at


The increase in Carbon Dioxide has been relentless since records have been kept and is increasing at an accelerated pace. Current levels are unprecedented going back over 1/2 million years.

Annual CO2 level changes (parts per million)
Derived from in situ air measurements at Mauna Loa, Observatory, Hawaii

Annual CO2 level changes (parts per million)
Updated through 2020

This chart shows that the annual amount of CO2 increase is itself increasing.
See data credits for the first chart for source data

January 15, 2021 note: In 2020 the relentless increase in Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere continued. The rate of increase, although substantial, decreased to lowest level in six years. Earlier in 2020 there was a dramatic decrease in CO2 emissions due to Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, withs areas of the industrial world (notably within China and India) seeing beautiful blue skies for the first time in decades. Still, the primary chart does not show even a tiny blip.

January 7, 2020 note: In 2019 the relentless increase in Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere continued. There is no sign of a slowdown. The increase in 2019 was the 4th highest rate of increase since the records began in 1958, with 3 of the 4 biggest increases occurring in the last 5 years.

The relentless increase is thought by many to be contributing to significant changes in the climate, particularly atmospheric warming and increases in ocean levels.

January 9, 2019 note: 2018 saw another substantial increase in the CO2 level and the increase was higher than the increase in 2017.

While the United State continues to emit more CO2 on a per-capita basis than China, the United States has made improvements in recent years although much more work is needed.
China's total output is worrisome as their level continues to soar. China needs to dramatically focus on wind and solar and turn away from continuing to build many coal powered plants.

According to the EPA (, the sources of Carbon Dioxide emissions in the United States are:
38% - Electricity Production
32% - Transportation
14% - Industry
9% - Commercial and Residential
6% - Other (Non-Fossil Fuel Combustion)


Green House Gas primer:

Potency - Global Warming Potential: