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The average annual concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere last year broke 400 parts-per-million (ppm) for the first time — in both modern direct measurements and ice core records dating as far back as 800,000 years — according to a major report on 2016 climate conditions released Thursday.

Expand chart
Data: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

The State of the Climate report, compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, finds that the increase in CO2 levels of 3.5 ppm over 2015, to reach an average of 402.9 ppm last year, was the largest annual jump in 58 years of modern measurements.

  • So hot right now: The wide-ranging annual report, based on input from scientists worldwide and multiple datasets, again confirms prior measurements that 2016 was the warmest year globally in records that date back to the late 1800s.
  • The report states: "Owing at least in part to the combination of El Niño conditions early in the year and a long-term upward trend, Earth's surface observed record warmth for a third consecutive year, albeit by a much slimmer margin than by which that record was set in 2015."
  • Why it matters: the report shows continued evidence of global warming and related climatic changes, and arrives amid intense focus on Trump administration policies to abandon Obama-era climate regulations and policies.

The latest annual State of the Climate study is likely to provide fresh political ammunition for green groups and Democrats attacking White House moves on climate and energy policy.

A few more key findings:

  • Global average sea level reached a new record high and "and was about 3.25 inches (82 mm) higher than the 1993 average, the year that marks the beginning of the satellite altimeter record," a summary notes.
  • Alpine glaciers continued their long-term retreat.
  • Average Arctic land temperatures broke records and were 3.6°F (2.0°C) above the 1981-2010 average. The maximum reach of Arctic sea ice measured in March was at its lowest in the 37-year satellite record, tying 2015 at 7.2 percent below the 1981-2010 average.
  • "The strong El Niño at the beginning of the year that transitioned to a weak La Niña contributed to enhanced precipitation variability around the world." South America saw "repeated heavy flooding" in several countries.
  • At the same time, the area covered by drought was significant. "The global drought extent surpassed most years in the post-1950 record and was strongly influenced by the El Niño, with every month of 2016 having at least 12% of global land experiencing severe drought conditions," the report states.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats' billionaires tax explained

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

There is now legislative language behind the push to tax American billionaires on unrealized capital gains, as Sen. Ron Wyden last night released his 107-page plan.

Why it matters: This would be a sea change in U.S. tax policy, which has only applied to realized gains (otherwise known as income).

2 hours ago - World

Scoop: Blinken protests Israel settlements approval in "tense" phone call

Benny Gantz (L) and Tony Blinken. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/AFP via Getty

Secretary of State Tony Blinken protested the decision to approve 3,000 new housing units in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank during a tense phone call on Tuesday with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, three Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: This is the first time new construction in the settlements has been approved since President Biden assumed office, and the Biden administration had been privately pressing the Israeli government not to proceed.

The startup that wants to disrupt big internet providers

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A new startup backed by funding from AOL founder Steve Case and Laurene Powell Jobs wants to break up broadband monopolies across the country.

Why it matters: Internet access has been crucial during the pandemic, but it's not ubiquitous, and it can be both slow and unaffordable in swaths of the country.