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October 07, 2019

The scientific method and climate change

Starting in 1958, Charles Keeling used the scientific method to take meticulous measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) at Mauna Loa Observatory in Waimea, Hawaii. This graph, known as the Keeling Curve, shows how atmospheric COhas continued rising since then.
By Holly Shaftel,
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
The scientific method is the gold standard for exploring our natural world. You might have learned about it in grade school, but here’s a quick reminder: It’s the process that scientists use to understand everything from animal behavior to the forces that shape our planet—including climate change.
“The way science works is that I go out and study something, and maybe I collect data or write equations, or I run a big computer program,” said Josh Willis, principal investigator of NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) mission and oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “And I use it to learn something about how the world works.”
Using the scientific method, scientists have shown that humans are extremely likely the dominant cause of today’s climate change. The story goes back to the late 1800s, but in 1958, for example, Charles Keeling of the Mauna Loa Observatory in Waimea, Hawaii, started taking meticulous measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, showing the first significant evidence of rapidly rising CO2 levels and producing the Keeling Curve climate scientists know today. 


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