Mountains sucking up carbon could be responsible for at least two of the Earth's ice ages.
Thu, Jul 09, 2009 at 04:24 PM
MOUNTAINS COOLING THE EARTH: The process of silicate weathering pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.(Photo: ZUMA Press)
We’re all familiar with the greenhouse effect: Gases like carbon dioxide and methane build up in the atmosphere, create an insulating layer around the earth, and pretty soon, we start sweating. But what happens if there is a drop in greenhouse gas levels?
A study from Ohio State University suggests that when silicate rock in the Appalachian Mountains began to weather some 450 million years ago, the process “pulled” carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
The result? A major ice age. This finding provides more evidence for scientists’ speculation that a similar process in the Himalayas 40 million years ago caused our current ice age. “An ice age?” you ask skeptically. But it’s true: We’re in the midst of one (though we don’t blame you for forgetting, given that we here at Plenty are still reeling from a particularly blazing NYC summer).
If we were in charge of climate-altering geological processes on Earth, we know what we’d order to slow down global warming: some carbon-sucking silicate mountains, please. On the double.
Story by Joe Smith. This article originally appeared in Plenty in November 2006. The story was added to MNN.com in July 2009.
Copyright Environ Press 2006.