June 10, 2015

Keeling Curve research sites as National Historic Chemical Landmarks

Posted by Laura Guertin

When I read the headline about the Keeling Curve research sites being designated as National Historic Chemical Landmarks, my immediate reaction was, “Yes! An outstanding and appropriate honor!”  But then, I did a double-take… did I read the announcement correctly? A National Historic Chemical Landmark? What exactly is a historic chemical landmark?

The mission of the [American Chemical Society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks] NHCL program is to enhance public appreciation for the contributions of the chemical sciences to modern life in the United States and to encourage a sense of pride in their practitioners for chemistry’s rich history. The program does this by recognizing seminal achievements in the chemical sciences, recording their histories, and providing information and resources about Landmark achievements.  —   from About the National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program

So why designate the Keeling Curve research sites and the CO2 data set collected at these sites as a NHCL?

“The Keeling Curve is an icon of modern climate science,” said Thomas J. Barton, Ph.D., immediate past president of the American Chemical Society. “Dave Keeling’s meticulous research provided scientifically credible evidence that has proved critical to understanding and addressing human impacts on our environment. Keeling recognized in 1960 that fossil fuels are driving global atmospheric change, which presents serious challenges for Earth and its people. The global impacts of climate change are what make Keeling’s work so important, and so celebrated, today.”  —  from NOAA, April 23, 2015

Dedications took place at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mauna Loa Observatory on April 30, 2015, and in just a few days at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, on June 12, 2015 (learn more about the June 12th ceremony at The Keeling Curve website). You can view the Commemorative Booklet on the ACS website.

Below are some videos that celebrate the history and scientific contributions from the Keeling Curve research sites. Enjoy!  And to further your landmark exploration, be sure to review our amazing geologic sites designed through the National Park Service’s National Natural Landmarks Program.

CO2 data and graphs from the Mauna Loa Observatory can be accessed on NOAA’s ESRL Global Monitoring Division website.