Monday, June 22, 2009

Carbon level the highest in 2 million years

Variations in CO2 concentration that used to take several million years to occur are now happening in a few decades, scientists say.

The level of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is the highest in at least 2.1 million years, according to a new study published Friday by Science.

A team of researchers drilled into the ocean floor off the coast of Africa to remove shells of ancient marine animals that contain climate records.

The CO2 concentration ranged between 181 and 297 parts per million. It may be necessary to go back as far as 2.7 million years to find carbon levels similar to today’s, the study concluded.

“What’s remarkable is how little CO2 concentration changed in the past,” said Jerry McManus, a paleoclimatology professor at Columbia who participated in the study.

“What we’re seeing now is the same magnitude of natural variations happening in only a few decades.” (Photo: NASA)

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