Carbon monoxide levels decreasing despite rise in other greenhouse gases

It has long been known that carbon dioxide levels, known as CO2 to most of us, have been on the rise for decades thanks to the burning of fossil fuels and an overall increase in population. But with the rise in CO2 levels, many would make the jump that CO levels, carbon monoxide, would be rising too. That isn't the case at all. In fact, recent findings show that CO levels have been dropping since 2000, with many scientists concluding that they have likely been dropping since the 80's.

The NASA satellite Terra has been taking measurements on global CO levels since 2000 and its finding are quite the opposite of what many would expect. The following 2 images show Terra's findings in 2000 and then again in 2014…

 

 

It is without a doubt that atmospheric carbon monoxide has been decreasing over the last 14 years, especially in the northern hemisphere. So why the decline when many other greenhouse gases continue to climb? Carbon monoxide is formed by the burning of fossil fuels and in natural sources like wildfires and volcanoes. But the overall life of CO is different than CO2… it only has an atmospheric shelf life of about a month, so if no CO was emitted into the atmosphere over the next month, then there wouldn't be a single molecule left. This is a very efficient way to see whether overall technological advances are actually aiding in global reduction of the use and burning of fossil fuels despite rapid population growth. It shows that it is...

 

This is a graphical representation of the pictures above showing the overall measurements between 2000 and 2014. In 2000, there were roughly 125 parts per billion worth of CO in our atmosphere… in 2014, that number is roughly 105 showing a pretty drastic and steady drop in levels over the last 14 years. So why the decrease?? Better fossil fuel burning practices, improvements on car exhaust from worldwide auto makers, and fewer fires and deforestation are likely some of the biggest reasons. You still have huge plumes in the tropical regions of Africa and then in much of China where burning of the forests and tremendous coal burning power plants remain. But much of the rest of the world shows signs of continued dwindling production of CO… a little positive sign in a world full of tragic environmental news.

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