Humanity is nowhere near capable of providing the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as natural geological processes. So it's pointless to blame us for global warming. New research has further confirmed these findings.
An international team of scientists led by a team from the University of Southampton (UK) analyzed climate change, coupled with processes taking place on land and in the oceans, over a geologically significant period of 400 million years. On such a scale, the close interconnection of various systems that form the appearance of our planet is better visible, since the effect of some events can manifest itself after a long time by human standards. It was her existence that the researchers intended to find or refute.
To process geological, hydrological and climatic data, it was necessary to develop a new model and modernize several existing ones. Scientists have benefited greatly from recent advances in neural network algorithms and machine learning.
The result of the painstaking work was an article published in the journal Nature Geoscience. Its authors include not only specialists from the University of Southampton, but also employees of Leeds (Great Britain), Ottawa (Canada), Sydney and National Australian Universities.
The fact that chemical weathering helps to bind carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has been known for a long time. This process should not be confused with erosion - the degradation of geological structures under the influence of moving water. Weathering occurs without significant displacement of rocks or their fragments. They are transformed in the course of chemical reactions, mechanical effects of wind, freezing and thawing of moisture, or with the direct assistance of living organisms. Moreover, chemical weathering explained the balance of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and its absorption in the past.
According to a widely accepted scientific point of view, this harmony was due to the delicate balance between processes on the seabed (contributing to emissions) and weathering on land (absorbing).
However, new research puts this theory on the brink of inconsistency (besides the fact that it did not fit well with observational data). Analysis of data over the past 400 million years shows that active continental margins played a decisive role in balancing climate fluctuations on the scale of entire geological periods. These are areas of active volcanism caused by plate tectonics.
Yes, volcanoes emit huge amounts of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere and can dramatically change the climate in the short term.
At the same time, they cover their surroundings with colossal volumes of chemically active rocks. Calcium and magnesium compounds are quickly washed out of volcanic rocks and travel to river and sea basins. There they relatively quickly, by geological standards, under the influence of water form new minerals that bind carbon dioxide in solid form. This effect occurs somewhat later than the primary direct consequences of eruptions, and the amount of bound CO2 is greater than that emitted by volcanoes.
Over the past 400 million years, the regulation of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere by such geological processes has been well traced, as found by a new study.