Scientists interested in the Earths carbon cycle – something that must be understood to assess the ongoing effects of carbon dioxide created by human actions, such as driving cars – have a new problem. They need to adjust various calculations because one component, graphitic black carbon, similar to the material found in pencil lead, turns out to be so tough.
In a letter in todays issue of Nature, researchers say that graphitic black carbon is created as sedimentary rocks undergo metamorphism – unlike forms of combustion-derived black carbon such as soot, charcoal and other debris thats left when biomass such as forests or fossil fuels dont burn completely. Eroding from rocks on land, graphitic black carbon appears to be one of the only kinds of carbon that resists conversion to other forms of carbon, such as combining with oxygen to form carbon dioxide, as it cycles between land, atmosphere and oceans.
"Carbon is generally considered to pass fairly freely between reservoirs, or boxes, of the carbon cycle," says lead author Angela Dickens, a doctoral student in chemistry and oceanography at the University of Washington. "The carbon stays in one box for a variable amount of time – for hundreds of years in trees, a few days in a bug, thousands of years as organic carbon dissolved in the worlds oceans and such, but not generally staying more than a few thousand years in any one form before being converted into a different form.
Sandra Hines | EurekAlert!
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