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Carbon Cycle


Wikipedia is always a good source of information on technical items needing a simple explanation. In this article we learn about the carbon cycle and its potential influences on the climate.

The cycle is usually thought of as four major reservoirs of carbon interconnected by pathways of exchange. The reservoirs are the atmosphere, the terrestrial biosphere (which usually includes freshwater systems and non-living organic material, such as soil carbon), the oceans (which includes dissolved inorganic carbon and living and non-living marine biota), and the sediments (which includes fossil fuels). The annual movements of carbon, the carbon exchanges between reservoirs, occur because of various chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes. The ocean contains the largest active pool of carbon near the surface of the Earth, but the deep ocean part of this pool does not rapidly exchange with the atmosphere.

The global carbon budget is the balance of the exchanges (incomes and losses) of carbon between the carbon reservoirs or between one specific loop (e.g., atmosphere – biosphere) of the carbon cycle. An examination of the carbon budget of a pool or reservoir can provide information about whether the pool or reservoir is functioning as a source or sink for carbon dioxide.

Models of the carbon cycle can be incorporated into global climate models, so that the interactive response of the oceans and biosphere on future CO2 levels can be modelled. There are considerable uncertainties in this, both in the physical and biogeochemical submodels (especially the latter). Such models typically show that there is a positive feedback between temperature and CO2. For example, Zeng et al. (GRL, 2004 [2]) find that in their model, including a coupled carbon cycle increases atmospheric CO2 by about 90 ppmv at 2100 (over that predicted in models with non-interactive carbon cycles), leading to an extra 0.6C of warming (which, in turn, may lead to even greater atmospheric CO2).

Link to Wikipedia Carbon Cycle

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