Rise of Carbon Dioxide–Absorbing Mountains in Tropics May Set Thermostat for Global Climate
Paul Voosen | Science Magazine
Saturday, December 29, 2018
Science Magazine reports on new research from EAPS Associate Professor of Geology Oliver Jagoutz and others, presented at the AGU Fall Meeting 2018, showing that large tectonic collisions in the tropics plus weathering have been pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and these tropical mountain-building collisions coincide with nearly all of the half-dozen or so significant glacial periods in the past 500 million years.
Hate the cold? Blame Indonesia. It may sound odd, given the contributions to global warming from the country’s 270 million people, rampant deforestation, and frequent carbon dioxide (CO2)-belching volcanic eruptions. But over much longer times, Indonesia is sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere.
Many mountains in Indonesia and neighboring Papua New Guinea consist of ancient volcanic rocks from the ocean floor that were caught in a colossal tectonic collision between a chain of island volcanoes and a continent, and thrust high. Lashed by tropical rains, these rocks hungrily react with CO2 and sequester it in minerals. That is why, with only 2% of the world’s land area, Indonesia accounts for 10% of its long-term CO2 absorption. Its mountains could explain why ice sheets have persisted, waxing and waning, for several million years (although they are now threatened by global warming).
Now, researchers have extended that theory, finding that such tropical mountain-building collisions coincide with nearly all of the half-dozen or so significant glacial periods in the past 500 million years...
Story Image: In some wet tropical mountains, carbon dioxide is captured and flushed out of the atmosphere. (ROBERT HARDING/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO)