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The Carbon Cycle
Transcript of The Carbon Cycle
Every organism on Earth needs carbon either for structure, energy, or, as in the case of humans, for both. The movement of carbon, in its many forms, between the atmosphere, oceans, biosphere, and geosphere is described by the carbon cycle.
This cycle consists of several storage pools of carbon (black text) and the processes by which the various pools exchange carbon The global carbon cycle, one of the major biogeochemical cycles, can be divided into geological and biological components. The geological carbon cycle operates on a time scale of millions of years, whereas the biological carbon cycle operates on a time scale of days to thousands of years. The geological carbon cycle:
The geological component of the carbon cycle is where it interacts with the rock cycle in the processes of weathering and dissolution, precipitation of minerals, burial and subduction, and volcanism.
In the atmosphere, carbonic acid forms by a reaction with atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and water.
As this weakly acidic water reaches the earth as rain, it reacts with minerals at the earth’s surface, slowly dissolving them into their component ions through the process of chemical weathering. These component ions are carried in surface waters like streams and rivers eventually to the ocean, where they precipitate out as minerals like calcite (CaCO3).
The Geological Carbon Cycle This return to the atmosphere can occur violently through volcanic eruptions, or more gradually in seeps, vents, and CO2-rich hotsprings. Tectonic uplift can also expose previously buried limestone.
One example of this occurs in the Himalayas where some of the world’s highest peaks are formed of material that was once at the bottom of the ocean.
Weathering, subduction, and volcanism control atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations over time periods of hundreds of millions of years. This cycle continues as seafloor spreading pushes the seafloor under continental margins in the process of subduction.
As seafloor carbon is pushed deeper into the earth by tectonic forces, it heats up, eventually melts, and can rise back up to the surface, where it is released as CO2 and returned to the atmosphere.