All Time Spike In Global Atmospheric CO2 + 2020 Warmest Year Globally

Crossing Dangerous Thresholds

  • CO2 Levels At All Time High As Rate Of Increase Accelerates
  • 2020 Tied With 2016 For Hottest Month Globally
  • Methane Levels Reach New Highs in 2020

NOAA’s renowned Mauna Loa Laboratory recorded a new record for daily average atmospheric CO2 on April 3, 2021. The 421PPM reading follows news that 2020 has been confirmed as the planet’s warmest year, tying 2016. And as a bonus, atmospheric methane (CH4) levels are blowing through all records in a way that climate scientists are struggling to understand.

The 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2005. The nine hottest have occurred since 2010. The seven hottest have been the most recent seven.

Long Term Perspective and Context:

The more context you have for this frightening GHG indicator, the scarier it should appear.

In the last million years, CO2 levels have cycled between about 180 and 280 ppm during cycles of about 100,000 years.

When the industrial revolution began to pump carbon into the atmosphere in ever increasing quantities, the cycle was dangerously disrupted, at first gradually and now accelerating rapidly. The pattern doesn’t require deep analysis for the trend to be obvious.

The new blow out number from April 3 confirms that a return of human economic activity is jolting CO2 concentration right back to the pre-Covid threshold and beyond. Levels had been dropping up until September of 2020 due to the pandemic.

In addition to the proven relationship between carbon levels and global heating, there are a number of other effects from the rapid escalation of CO2 increase. Among the most significant is the acidification of the ocean chemistry, which has already begun to compromise the existence of a number of marine species. People will finally “get it” when their favorite oyster bar closes forever.

One of the first lines of pushback from global heating deniers who want to seem objective is “the climate has been changing for millions of years.” Which of course is true. In fact, science has documented these patterns rather predictably, particularly in a group of graphs known as the Milankovitch cycles.  

HOWEVER! The current pace of CO2 concentration growth plots far outside of any normal cycle for millions of years. So yes, cyclical but juiced beyond any “natural” model by anthropogenic global heating. The highest levels in 3 million years. Us. Humans.

Methane: CO2s dark, surly shadow companion.

Methane, (a GHG about 20 to 30% more potent than CO2) also continues to increase rapidly in the Earth’s atmosphere. After a pause in the early years of this century, the accelerated growth resumed in 2008. In spite of the pandemic, the year 2020 showed the greatest increase in atmospheric CH4 in history.

The causes – which are likely a combination of natural and human induced – are not fully understood, but it is utterly clear that fossil fuel emissions and ranching are among them. Atmospheric levels of CH4 have essentially doubled over the past two hundred years, the cause behind as much as 25% of global heating.

Nothing good can come of that.


We are inundated by statistics all day long. It can be difficult to assess what they really mean. For example, does the fact that 2018 was only the 4th hottest year on record mean global warming is slowing? Not hardly, in fact, quite the opposite: Please read on.

NOAA, NASA, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service and Berkeley Earth have all confirmed that 2018 was the 4th hottest in terms of global surface air temperatures. Average Mean Annual Land Surface Air Temperatures were 14.7° Celsius (58.4°F in 2018, just 0.2C (.3°F) off the record year 2016.

According to Berkeley Earth, in 2018 about 4.3% of the planet set new local records for the warmest annual average, including significant areas in Europe and the Middle East.

The five warmest years have been 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 (not in that order). The ten hottest years have occurred since 1998. While there are variations in the details, other agencies from around the planet report remarkably consistent overall results.

2018 was a La Niña year, a natural oceanic temperature cycle that alternates with El Niño. La Niña years are virtually always cooler than El Niño years. The fact that 2018 made it into the top five is all the more alarming for that reason. BTW, an El Niño appears to be forming, although prediction is not 100% accurate.

The next statistic is more troubling:

2018 was the warmest year on record for global ocean temperatures. 

Polar Ice Primer

Over past two decades, the ocean has been warming about 40% faster than previously understood. To a large degree, that is because the oceans have been acting as a buffer, storing the heat trapped by greenhouse gases and temporarily delaying the onslaught of global warming. As the planet has warmed, the oceans have provided a sort of climate change cushion.

For the past 20 years, the waters of the Earth have been absorbing and storing massive amounts of heat energy as polar sea ice disappears. See the page on polar ice classifications. (Incidentally, the oceans have also been sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere as well.)

Unlike the atmosphere, ocean temperatures fluctuates over decades. When the ocean stores heat, it is slowly released back into the atmosphere, another feedback that may well be irreversible.

Global atmospheric temperatures will continue to set records over the next five years, according to the British Weather Service (MET).

Antarctic sea ice extent is at a record low and in the Arctic, temperatures are climbing about twice as fast as the rest of the globe. Global wind patterns are being disrupted, causing extreme weather events around the planet. This is the origin of the polar vortex, but that is only one manifestation.

The ecosystems of both polar regions are changing so profoundly and so fast that scientists are hard pressed to keep up. And of course, the permafrost is not so perma any more. That is a separate topic.

The final statistic: Atmospheric CO₂ crossed the 414 PPM for the first time at the Mona Loa, HI recording station for the first time last month. Pledges and world conferences aside, the growth of CO₂ in the atmosphere is accelerating, not decreasing. Prior to the industrial revolution, the average CO₂ measurement would have been 280 PPM. The Earth broke the 400 PPM measurement in 2016. Continued CO₂ growth is forecast for 2019 as emissions continue to rise and ecosystems absorb CO₂. If the predicted El Niño takes hold, the results will be magnified.

The greenhouse effect of CO₂ peak about ten years after it is emitted. Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years.

The chart curves up logarithmically and yes, this looks just like Al Gore’s hockey stick chart. (Actually it’s Michael Mann’s hockey stick and the original was for temperature, but they are most definitely related). But whether you like Al Gore or not has nothing to do with whether or not he has his facts straight.

Albert Einstein could also be a bit of an jerk, they say, and yet, you know: pretty smart guy.