All life, from a whale to a redwood tree, down to a lady bug, to an amoeba, down to our cells, even to the components inside our cells — all of it contains carbon. Carbon is the “duct tape of life,” It holds us together.
Carbon is the main source of food energy. When you eat carbon molecules (plants and animals), the digestive juices in your stomach break the carbon bonds inside and release the energy in the form of calories.
Atmospheric CO 2 resides in the atmosphere for about 100 years before it interacts with other parts of the earth in four subcylces:
Fossil Fuel Subcycle
Review the diagrams on the next slides. Note the type and amount of stored carbon, and times scales involved in these subcycles.
Carbon Sinks Amount of stored carbon in Billions of Metric Tons (Gt) Note type of Carbon Molecule (State of Matter) CH 2 O (solid or liquid) Terrestrial Plants Phytoplankton “ Biomass” 600 (Gt) Fossil Fuels 10,000 (Gt) Carbon In Atmosphere 750 Gt Carbon In Rocks 100,000,000 (Gt) Carbon In Ocean Water 40,000 (Gt) Consumers, Soil Marine Sediment “ Organic Matter” 1600 Gt H 2 CO 3 (liquid) CO 2 CH 4 (gas) CaCO 3 (solid) CH 2 O (solid) C x H x (solid or liquid)
Time Scales Plants Phytoplankton Fossil Fuels Carbon In Atmosphere Carbon In Rocks Carbon In Ocean Water Consumers, Soil Marine Sediment Biological Subcycle Short Term Days - Years Ocean Subcycle Short Term 10’s - 100’s of Years Fossil Fuel Subcycle Long Term Millions of Years Fossil Fuel Subcycle Short Term 10’s of Years Rock Subcycle Long Term Millions of Years
The map on the next slide shows the annual mean sea surface dissolved inorganic carbon concentration for the present day.
Note the correlation between low surface ocean temperature (at poles) and high carbon concentrations (blue/violet) and high surface ocean temperatures (at equator) and low carbon concentrations (brown/orange).
During colder climate periods, atmospheric CO 2 dissolves and accumulates in the oceans. Less atmospheric CO 2 makes the climate even colder, thus allowing more dissolution which makes the climate colder and so on…...
In warmer climates, CO 2 evaporates from the ocean into the atmosphere. More atmospheric CO 2 makes the climate even warmer, thus allowing more evaporation which makes the climate warmer and so on…...