The Keeling Curve

keeling curveToday on NPR’s Morning Edition they played a piece by Madeline Brand that aired in 2007 about the Keeling curve, and the man behind the curve, Charles David Keeling. As you may know, the Keeling curve (above) is a striking demonstration of the steady increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as measured from one location (on top of Mauna Loa in Hawaii) by one very simple method over almost 50 years.

It is a lovely story of dedication and determination that resulted in a simple, striking, and monumentally important scientific result. His results sounded a loud, clear alarm bell and began to focus the attention of scientists worldwide in the issue of climate change resulting from human activities.

I recommend listening to the piece. Madeline Brand visits the measuring station on the mountain, chats with friends and relatives, listens to the lovely sound of the air filling the measuring flask, and builds a fascinating portrait of the man and his scientific work. It is here. I also found a BBC story by Helen Briggs from 2007 celebrating those key 50 years of Keeling’s work here. You can read more about the curve at Wikipedia (I’m referring to the entry there at time of writing). (I got the image from there.)


Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Keeling Curve

  1. toby says:

    actually, it doesn’t look like a “steady increase” from here… rather like an accelerating increase.

  2. Clifford says:


    By “steady increase” I did not mean that the rate of increase was constant.


  3. Kortney says:

    A wonderful portrait indeed! Very enjoyable to hear Mr. Keeling’s wife tell stories from their lives of travel and research. Especially enjoyed the ‘sound of the air filling the flask’ and the deer walking away with Keeling’s notebook in its’ mouth.
    Excellent information as well, to bring awareness to pollution’s affects on our global enviornment.
    Enjoy Al Gore in Chicago, if you hear him speak. He is a great orator, I heard him live many years ago and appreciate all he is doing for global awareness.