In a new study by scientists at the University of Southampton of UK, it was found that volcano (es) have been responsible for stabilising temperatures at the surface of the earth.
It acted as a safety valve for the planet’s long-term climate. The findings of this study were published in the journal Nature Geoscience.
As per the researchers, extensive chains of volcanoes have been responsible for both emitting and then removing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) over geological time.
Researchers explored the combined impact of processes in the solid Earth, oceans and atmosphere over the past 400 million years.
Also, chemical weathering is critically important because the products of weathering (elements like calcium and magnesium) are flushed via rivers to the oceans, where they form minerals that lock up CO2.
This mechanism regulates atmospheric CO2 levels. The natural breakdown and dissolution of rocks at the earth’s surface is called chemical weathering.
But due to the complexity of the earth system, the underlying controls have proven difficult. In this way, weathering of the earth’s surface serves as a geological thermostat.
Volcanoes and earth’s surface temperature
Researchers also discovered that continental volcanic arcs were the key influencers of weathering intensity in the last 400 million years.
The continental arcs are composed of chains of volcanoes, for example, the Cascades in the US and the Andes in South America.
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At present, atmospheric CO2 levels are higher than at any time in the past 3 million years. Human-driven emissions are about 150 times larger than volcanic CO2 emissions.
But this new study provides critical insights into how society might manage the current climate crisis.
Artificially enhanced rock weathering could play a major role in safely removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
Lastly, we need to design and evaluate large-scale enhanced weathering schemes.
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