New Study Challenges View of Natural Rock Weathering as a CO2 Sink
A groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford is challenging the long-held belief that natural rock weathering acts as a carbon dioxide (CO2) sink. The study, which has important implications for climate change modeling, suggests that natural rock weathering can actually release significant amounts of CO2, rivaling the emissions from volcanoes.
Rocks play a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s temperature by storing carbon from ancient plants and animals. When rocks undergo chemical weathering, they absorb CO2, counteracting the emissions from volcanic activity. However, the University of Oxford study found that rocks can also release CO2 when ancient seafloor rocks are pushed up to the Earth’s surface.
This process exposes organic carbon in the rocks to oxygen, triggering the release of CO2. The researchers used a tracer element to measure the release of CO2 from weathering organic carbon in rocks and found hotspots of CO2 release in mountain ranges with high uplift rates, such as the Himalayas, Rocky Mountains, and Andes.
The global CO2 release from rock organic carbon weathering was estimated to be 68 megatons of carbon per year, which is similar to volcanic emissions. These findings indicate that natural rock weathering plays a significant role in the Earth’s carbon cycle.
Ongoing research is now underway to investigate how human activities and climate change may further increase this natural carbon release. The researchers aim to assess how this release may change in the future, as understanding these natural fluxes is crucial for improving predictions of the Earth’s carbon budget.
The study, published in the prestigious journal Nature, provides valuable insights into the complexity of the Earth’s carbon cycle and highlights the need for a comprehensive understanding of its various mechanisms. As we continue to grapple with the challenges of climate change, it is imperative that we take into account all factors contributing to the release and absorption of CO2 in order to develop effective mitigation strategies.