By examining volcanic rocks retrieved from deep in the ocean, scientists have found they can estimate the carbon dioxide stored beneath much of the earths surface – a development that could enhance understanding of how volcanoes affect climate. The research by University of Florida scientists and others will be reported this week in the journal Nature.
Scientists examined chunks of basalt, a type of volcanic rock formed when lava cools, from 12,000 feet below the Pacific along a massive geographical formation called the midocean ridge. The scientists discovered in these basalts traces of carbon dioxide and other compounds that originated deep within the Earths mantle, the source of most volcanic activity. Because compounds from this inaccessible region had never been found so well preserved, the rocks gave scientists a rare peek at what the mantle consists of – and what it might spew into the atmosphere through volcanoes.
"Most lava erupts at the surface and has lost its gases. From a geochemists point of view, you need to know what the composition of the mantle really is," said Mike Perfit, a UF geology professor and co-author of the Nature paper. "This kind of data might be useful in talking about the contribution of the mantle to the atmosphere and hydrosphere and how those concentrations might affect the climate."
Mike Perfit | EurekAlert!
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