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Friday, October 10, 2014

It's All About Carbon

I learned that Carbon is the basic building block of life. It is found everywhere on earth. Carbon makes up the earth plants, animals, and it is also stored in the ocean, atmosphere, and the crust of planet. A carbon atom could spend millions of years moving through the earth in a complex cycle. Understanding the carbon cycle and how it is changing is the key to understanding earth's changing climate. On land, plants remove carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Animals eat plants and either breathe out carbon or moves up the food chain. When plants and animals die and decay, they transfer carbon back to the soil.
The ocean holds huge amounts of carbon about 15 times we found in the atmosphere. The ocean is sometimes called the "carbon sink" meaning that it absorbs or takes up carbon from the atmosphere. It takes up carbon through physical and biological processes.
At the ocean surface, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere dissolves into the water. Tiny marine plants called phytoplankton use this carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. Phytoplankton are the base of the marine food web. After animal eats the plants, they breathe out carbon or pass it up the food chain. Sometimes, phytoplankton die, decompose, and recycle in the surface waters. Phytoplankton can also sink into the ocean floor carrying carbon. Over long time scales, this process has made the ocean floor the largest reservoir of carbon in the planet. Most of the ocean nutrients are in cold deep water. In a process called the upwelling, currents bring nutrients and carbon up to the surface. Carbon can then be released as a gas back into the atmosphere continuing the carbon cycle. By cycling huge amounts of carbon, the ocean helps regulate climate.
"So when you think of climate, you don’t often think of the ocean. Climate, you think of, is it gonna be hotter these years or colder this year. But oceans are actually a great regulator, controller of climate. They are even controlling how much carbon is in the atmosphere which can slow down how quickly climate change is occurring."-Scott Doney
At the most basic level, the balance between incoming sunlight and outgoing heat determines the earth's climate. Greenhouse gases act like act like a blanket and trap heat in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.
In the past 2 centuries, human have increased atmosphere carbon dioxide by more than 30% by burning fossil fuels in cutting down force. The earth hasn't experience carbon dioxide level this high for the past several million years. Researchers are learning that future climate change will depend on carbon levels.
The latest pollution numbers, calculated by the Global Carbon Project, a joint venture of the Energy Department and the Norwegian Research Council, show that worldwide carbon dioxide levels are 54% higher than the 1990 baseline.
I watched a video about Carbon, its functions, and other related things to it.
I participated in the online discussion by expressing thoughts and ideas about our Earth in my blog and by sharing what I learned on the video presentation that I watched.


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