Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

The global average concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is tracked and updated monthly, capturing both seasonal and interannual trends. Data are drawn from paired, weekly samples collected at 40 sites in the remote marine boundary layer around the globe.
The global average concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is tracked and updated monthly, capturing both seasonal and interannual trends. Data are drawn from paired, weekly samples collected at 40 sites in the remote marine boundary layer around the globe.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing

The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased more than 19% in less than 40 years, owing largely to human activities, and representing well over 50% of the total increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since the onset of the industrial revolution (1750).
The sawtooth pattern demonstrates the fluctuation of atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide over seasonal cycles, driven largely by the terrestrial biosphere. There is an overall upward trend since data collection began. Global monthly average concentrations of carbon dioxide have risen steadily from 339 parts per million in 1980 (averaged over the year) to 405 parts per million in 2017, an increase of more than 19% in less than 40 years.

About Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Greenhouse gases Gases that absorb heat in the atmosphere near the Earth's surface, preventing it from escaping into space. If the atmospheric concentrations of these gases rise, the average temperature of the lower atmosphere will gradually increase, a phenomenon known as the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases include, for example, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane.
 such as carbon dioxide trap heat in the atmosphere. Increasing concentrations of these gases have driven an increase in global temperatures. The Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI) shows that over the past decade, increases in carbon dioxide are responsible for about 84% of the increase in the heat-trapping capacity of the atmosphere. Although the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide fluctuates over seasonal cycles, as illustrated by the saw-tooth pattern in the graph, the overall trend has been a steady increase since data collection began. Global monthly average concentrations of carbon dioxide have risen from around 339 parts per million in 1980 (averaged over the year) to 405 parts per million in 2017, an increase of more than 19%.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Global Monitoring Division has measured carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases for several decades through a globally distributed network of about 70 air sampling sites, including the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawai’i. The data for this indicator come from a subset of about 40 of these sites located in isolated regions of the ocean.
Why It's Important
  • Carbon dioxide concentration is an important measure of how human activity has increased the heat-trapping capacity of the atmosphere.
  • This indicator can inform carbon emissions policies at national and international levels.