Washington: Raising new concern about one of the top greenhouse gases and the effects of global warming, scientists said the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere increased at a record pace last year.
According to the US scientists, the annual growth rate of carbon dioxide jumped by 3.05 parts per million (ppm) during 2015, the largest year-on-year increase in 56 years.
Researchers from US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that 2015 also marked the fourth consecutive year that CO2 grew more than 2 ppm
"Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years. It is explosive compared to natural processes," said Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA's Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network.
Levels of the greenhouse gas were independently measured by NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory and by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the US.
In February 2016, the average global atmospheric CO2 level stood at 402.59 ppm. Prior to 1800, atmospheric CO2 averaged about 280 ppm.
"The last time the Earth experienced such a sustained CO2 increase was between 17,000 and 11,000 years ago, when CO2 levels increased by 80 ppm. Today's rate of increase is 200 times faster," said Tans.
The big jump in CO2 is partially due to the current El Nino weather pattern, as forests, plant life and other terrestrial systems responded to changes in weather, precipitation and drought, researchers said.
The growth rate of atmospheric CO2 was measured at NOAA's Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.
Scientists said the last time a similar jump in CO2 was observed was in 1998, also a strong El Nino year. Continued high emissions from fossil fuel consumption are driving the underlying growth rate over the past several years.
(With Agency inputs)