What does the Keeling Curve have to do with Carbon Dioxide?

The latest hot news (pun intended) is that NOAAs Mauna Loa Observatory has measured 400 ppm of CO2!

The history of Mauna Loa Observatory and why NOAA has  been measuring Carbon Dioxide there for so long is pretty interesting.

In 1958, Charles David Keeling of the Scripps Institution in San Diego started supervising the collection of frequent and regular readings of CO2 at both the South Pole and Hawaii.  From this data he began systematically keeping records on CO2.  Over time he was able to show graphically the rise of Carbon Dioxide in our Atmosphere.

The Keeling Curve is a graph that shows the increase of CO2 over time.  This graph is credited with bringing the Anthropogenic caused increase in CO2 to weather scientists and the publics attention.

The Keeling Curve

The Keeling Curve

When Keeling started measuring CO2 it was thought that there was extreme variability in the readings and that it wouldn’t mean very much to study them.  Keeling started showing that 310 ppm was consistent with afternoon readings in California, Arizona and Oregon in the 1960s. Keeling was also able to track increases over time based on the amounts of fossil fuels that were burned year to year.

Although government cut backs made him abandon his efforts at the South Pole, and some peer review called his study “routine”, Keeling was persistent enough to keep the Mauna Loa site running continuously. Read more about the Keeling curve at the following site.


Keeling is also credited with developing the first instrumentation that recorded accurate CO2 readings.  In 2002 Keeling was awarded the Medal of Science from then President George W. Bush.

See his full biography below.


Charles David Keeling

Charles David Keeling


A Persistent Visionary

Without Scientists such as Mr. Keeling we would still be floundering around wondering what CO2 has to do with a warming earth. Well hopefully not. However, it is fairly obvious that his theories on CO2, fossil fuel burning and climate change have set the ground work for a world wide effort to reduce green house gases.

Per his biography, “The data collection started by Dr. Keeling and continued at Mauna Loa is the longest continuous record of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the world!”

At 13,000 ft. Mauna Loa is the perfect place to measure CO2!

At 13,000 ft. Mauna Loa is the perfect place to measure CO2!



About rsingram

Environmental Specialist, Disaster Reservist, Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control, Para-Archeologist
This entry was posted in Carbon Dioxide, Climate Change, Mauna Loa Observatory and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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