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Science

Greenhouse Gas Levels Continue Rising

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration measures the direct climate influence of many greenhouse gasses through the Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, also known as the AGGI, and it showed that a rise in greenhouse gasses between 2009 and 2010.

NOAA's Annual Greenhouse Gas Index is a gauge of the climate warming influence of greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere by human activities and compared with the "index" year of 1990. The AGGI shows a steady upward trend, reaching 1.29 in 2010. This means that the heating effect of additional greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased by 29 percent since 1990

Started in 2004 the AGGI does not provide exact details as to what the temperature increases are, but rather that with a rise in greenhouse gas levels there will be a corresponding rise in temperature.

The AGGI reached 1.29 in 2010, a 29 percent increase on the index year of 1990 and slightly higher than 2009’s 1.27. NOAA scientists have calculated the AGGI back to 1978 using data from ice cores and other records.

“The increasing amounts of long-lived greenhouse gases in our atmosphere indicate that climate change is an issue society will be dealing with for a long time,” said Jim Butler, director of the Global Monitoring Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. “Climate warming has the potential to affect most aspects of society, including water supplies, agriculture, ecosystems and economies. NOAA will continue to monitor these gases into the future to further understand the impacts on our planet.”

The 2010 AGGI report notes several changes in a variety of greenhouse gasses;

  • A continued steady increase in carbon dioxide: Global carbon dioxide levels rose to an average of 389 parts per million in 2010, compared with 386 ppm in 2009, and 354 in the index or comparison year of 1990. Before the Industrial Revolution of the 1880s, carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was about 280 ppm. Carbon dioxide levels swing up and down in natural seasonal cycles, but human activities – primarily the burning of coal, oil, and gas for transportation and power – have driven a consistent upward trend in concentration.
  • A continued recent increase in methane: Methane levels rose in 2010 for the fourth consecutive year after remaining nearly constant for the preceding 10 years, up to 1799 parts per billion. Methane measured 1794 ppb in 2009, and 1714 ppb in 1990. Pound for pound, methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but there’s less of it in the atmosphere.
  • A continued steady increase in nitrous oxide: Best known as laughing gas in dentistry, nitrous oxide is also a greenhouse gas emitted from natural sources and as a byproduct of agricultural fertilization, livestock manure, sewage treatment and some industrial processes.
  • A continued recent drop in two chlorofluorocarbons, CFC11 and CFC12: Levels of these two compounds – which are ozone-depleting chemicals in addition to greenhouse gases – have been dropping at about one percent per year since the late 1990s, because of an international agreement, the Montreal Protocol, to protect the ozone layer.

Source: NOAA




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