Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Carbon monoxide in the Earth's atmosphere: indications of a global increase

Abstract

Over half of the carbon monoxide in the atmosphere comes from human activities including motor traffic, other combustion of fossil fuels, and slash and burn agriculture1–4. Additional anthropogenic sources include the burning of wood, savannah lands, and the oxidation of hydrocarbons including methane. Over the years these sources have increased gradually and may have already caused the concentrations of CO to double since pre-industrial times when human activities did not significantly affect the global cycles of CO and other trace gases. Increasing levels of CO can lead to an increase of tropospheric O3 (refs 5,6) and a build-up of many other trace gases in the Earth's atmosphere, which may in turn cause widespread perturbations of tropospheric chemistry, global warming, and other climatic changes7. In a recent report8 to senior US Government officials the National Academies stated the urgent need to know the global distribution and trends of CO. During the past 6–8 years we have taken systematic measurements of CO at sites ranging from within the Arctic Circle to the South Pole. The rates of increase of the globally averaged concentration are between 0.8% and 1.4% per year depending on the statistical method used for estimating the trends. These increases may have gone on for much longer because more than half of the atmospheric CO now comes from anthropogenic sources. We find that the rates of increase are largest at mid-northern and tropical latitudes, where most of the sources are located.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. Seiler, W. Tellus 26, 116–135 (1974).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Logan, J. A., Prather, M. J., Wofsy, S. C. & McElroy, M. B. J. geophys. Res 86, 7210–7254 (1981).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. National Academy of Sciences Carbon Monoxide (National Research Council, Washington, DC, 1977).

  4. Freyer, H.-D. in The Global Carbon Cycle (eds Bolin, B. et al.) Ch. 4 (Wiley, New York, 1979).

    MATH  Google Scholar 

  5. Fishman, J. & Crutzen, P. J. Nature 274, 855–858 (1978).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Fishman, J., Ramanathan, V., Crutzen, P. J. & Liu, S. C. Nature 282, 818–820 (1979).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. National Academy of Sciences Changing Climate (National Research Council, Washington, DC, 1983).

  8. National Academy of Sciences The National Academies Report to Senior Government Officials 10–12 (National Research Council, Washington, DC, 1985).

  9. Khalil, M. A. K. & Rasmussen, R. A. Atmos. Envir. 19, 397–407 (1985).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Levine, J. S., Rinsland, C. P. & Tennille, G. M. Nature 318, 254–257 (1985).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Thompson, A. M. & Cicerone, R. J. Nature 321, 148–150 (1986).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Rinsland, C. P. & Levine, J. S. Nature 318, 250–254 (1985).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Dvoryashina, E. V., Dianov-Klokov, V. I. & Yurganov, L. N. Izvestia, USSR, Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics 20, 40–47 (1984).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Dvoryashina, E. V., Dianov-Klokov, V. I. & Yurganov, L. N. Results of Carbon Monoxide Abundance Measurements, Zvenigorod, 1970–1982 preprint of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Moscow (1982).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Khalil, M. A. K. & Rasmussen, R. A. in Environmental Impact of Natural Emissions (ed. Aneja, V. P., 403–414 (APCA, Pittsburg, 1984).

    Google Scholar 

  16. Khalil, M. A. K. & Rasmussen, R. A. Science 224, 54–56 (1984).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Fraser, P. J., Hyson, H. P., Rasmussen, R. A., Crawford, A. J. & Khalil, M. A. K. J. atmos. Chem. 4, 3–42 (1986).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Khalil, M. A. K. & Rasmussen, R. A. Science 232, 56–58 (1986).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Hollander, M. & Wolfe, D. A. Nonparametric Statistical Methods (Wiley, New York, 1973).

    MATH  Google Scholar 

  20. Snedecor, G. W. & Cochran, W. G. Statistical Methods (Iowa State University Press, Ames, 1980).

    MATH  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Khalil, M., Rasmussen, R. Carbon monoxide in the Earth's atmosphere: indications of a global increase. Nature 332, 242–245 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1038/332242a0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/332242a0

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing