Keeling Curve

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It was already suspected, that increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere could impact the climate and contribute to warming because of increased industrialization. However, there wasn’t any reliable way to measure this concentration and prove this concept until 1953, when Charles David Keeling started his work on a project that would allow measuring CO2 in the air and water precisely.

Keeling was measuring the CO2 concentration at night and during the day, to find out that there were slight variations between the two, that could be a result of plant respiration. After normalizing the result, it was showing 310 PPM concentration of CO2 in any location where he was taking measurements. 

A few years later, Dave Keeling proposed a global project to measure CO2 concentration to the US Weather Bureau. Soon the team working with Keeling noticed that there are seasonal variations in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, again linked to plant respiration. In summer, plants were absorbing more CO2, which they were partially returning in winter. However, following the observations for a couple of years, the researcher noticed that the average concentration increased with time.

The consistent yearly data on the CO2 concentration started in 1958. In 1960 Keeling published a report, which brought the Keeling Curve to life – a chart showing CO2 concentration in the air throughout the years. Because the curve was on the rise, it started to get noticed, and in 1970s a research investigating it more was launched. The research looked into the links between the increasing CO2 concentration in the air and climate change.

Creation of the Keeling Curve is an important point in the Climate Change study. You can see the curve below, with an upward trend. The zig-zagged line indicates seasonal variations in CO2 (affected by plants photosynthesis in summer and winter). The Killing curve shows killing information (no pun intended)!

the Keeling curve