I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and west are mine, and the north and the south are mine
I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness - all seems beautiful to me.
- Song of the Open Road, Walt Whitman
Evolution of the Atmosphere: Composition, Structure and Energy
Keeling Curve: Atmospheric CO2 concentrations as measured at Mauna Loa Observatory.
The Keeling Curve is a graph showing the variation in concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1958. Keeling's measurements showed the first significant evidence of rapidly increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Many scientists credit Keeling's graph with first bringing the world's attention to the effects that human activity were having on the Earth's atmosphere and climate.
Charles David Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography was the first person to make frequent regular measurements of the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration, taking readings at the South Pole and atop Mauna Loa in Hawaii from 1958 onwards.
These measurements show a steady increase in mean atmospheric CO2 concentration from about 315 parts per million by volume (ppmv) in 1958 to over 380 ppmv by the year 2006 . This increase in atmospheric CO2 is considered to be largely due to the combustion of fossil fuels, and has been accelerating in recent years. This is supported by measurements of carbon dioxide concentration in ancient air bubbles trapped in polar ice cores, which show that mean atmospheric CO2 concentration was between 275 and 280 ppmv for several thousand years but started rising sharply at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Since carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, this has significant implications for global warming.
Though Mauna Loa is an active volcano, Keeling and collaborators made measurements on the incoming ocean breeze and above the thermal inversion layer to prevent local contamination. In addition, measurements at many other isolated sites have confirmed the long-term trend,