Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide: Anthropogenic, Volcanogenic, or Both?

A podcast of this post is available on seven platforms including Anchor by Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

In that 1%, Argon is 0.93%, CO2 is 0.035%, Methane is 0.00017%

Follow The Sciences

Particularly, Natural Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Quoting from the Wiley Online Library, the presence of carbonate carbon dioxide (i-CO2) near the Earth′s core-mantle boundary condition provides insights into both the deep carbon cycle and the transport of atmospheric CO2 to anhydrous silicates in the mantle and iron core.

As reported by Forbes, for billions of years, geological processes like volcanic eruptions controlled the carbon concentration in the atmosphere, as volcanism is the major way that carbon rises from the mantle into the atmosphere. Most of the carbon stored in the mantle is in the form of carbonate (a salt of carbonic acid), but there are also huge stores of actual carbon dioxide sequestered deep within the mantle as a dissolved gas within the liquid rock. Recent research about carbon reserves discovered underneath the United States has led to a new estimate of the amount of carbon in the Earth’s upper mantle: approximately 100 trillion tons. By contrast, there are only about 3.2 trillion tons of CO2 (containing about 870 billion tons of actual carbon) in the atmosphere today.

Forbes—How Much CO2 Does A Single Volcano Emit? Jun 6, 2017

Have you noticed? I refer to reports of volcanic activity, specifically the eruption of volcanoes around the world.

According to the USGS, there are approximately 1,350 potentially active volcanoes worldwide, “aside from the continuous belts of volcanoes on the ocean floor at spreading centers like the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Also, according to the USGS, The world’s largest eruption of the 20th century occurred in 1912 at Novarupta on the Alaska Peninsula. An estimated 15 cubic kilometers of magma was explosively erupted during 60 hours beginning on June 6th. This volume is equivalent to 230 years of eruption at Kilauea (Hawaii) or about 30 times the volume erupted by Mount St. Helens (Washington) in 1980!

Current and Recent Volcanic Events

I quote from Forbes

Italy’s Mt. Etna provides the most reliable eruptions on our planet…We can measure the degassing of Mt. Etna extremely well, and find that it adds about 16,000 tons of CO2 to the atmosphere each day or 5.8 million tons per year.

A tremendous synthesis of information took place in 2013, revealing our best value yet for the total amount of CO2 emitted from natural release events within Earth. They found:

  1. 33 measured degassing volcanoes emit a total of 60 million tons of CO2 per year.
  2. There are a total of ~150 known degassing volcanoes, implying (based on the measured ones) that a total of 271 million tons of CO2 are released annually.
  3. 30 historically active volcanoes are measured to emit a total of 6.4 million tons of CO2 per year.
  4. With ~550 historically active volcanoes total, they extrapolate this class of object contributes 117 million tons per year.
  5. The global total from volcanic lakes is 94 million tons of CO2 per year.
  6. Additional emissions from tectonic, hydrothermal and inactive volcanic areas contribute an estimated 66 million tons of CO2 per year, although the total number of emitting, tectonic areas are unknown.
  7. And finally, emissions from mid-ocean ridges are estimated to be 97 million tons of CO2 annually.

Unquote Forbes

Keeping in mind the above information is all that is known about natural emissions of CO2 into our atmosphere. Approximately 71% of the earth’s surface is water, chiefly the five oceans. Approximately 80% of the five ocean floors remain unexplored. We know more about the surface of the moon 230,000 miles away than the surface of our nearby oceans to which we can drive.

Speaking of Nature…

There seems to be a general sense that everything that happens on earth is natural except human activities. Perhaps you, like Elon Musk subscribe to this idea. If yes, perhaps you will want to join him on Mars someday.

The earth and the humans living on it are the progeny of nature’s God. I use this idea from the Declaration of Independence: “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God“. You are an atheist, you say? That is your problem, not mine.

John White
Rockwall, Texas

Helpful Definitions

  1. carbon dioxide (noun): a colorless, odorless, incombustible gas, CO2, present in the atmosphere and formed during respiration, usually obtained from coal, coke, or natural gas by combustion, from carbohydrates by fermentation, by reaction of acid with limestone or other carbonates, or naturally from springs: used extensively in industry as dry ice, or carbon dioxide snow, in carbonated beverages, fire extinguishers, etc. Also called carbonic-acid gas, carbonic anhydride. 
  2. anthropogenic (adjective): of, relating to, or resulting from the influence of human beings on nature; of human origin
  3. volcanogenic (adjective): of volcanic origin
  4. natural (adjective): existing in or formed by nature and not by humans; not artificial
  5. carbon cycle (noun): the cycle of carbon in the earth’s ecosystems in which carbon dioxide is fixed by photosynthetic organisms to form organic nutrients and is ultimately restored to the inorganic state (as by respiration, protoplasmic decay, or combustion)
  6. photosynthesis (noun): (esp. in plants) the synthesis of complex organic materials, esp. carbohydrates, from carbon dioxide, water, and inorganic salts, using sunlight as the source of energy and with the aid of chlorophyll and associated pigments.
  7. Milankovitch cycle (noun): Milutin Milankovich, a Serbian mathematician, astronomer, and engineer solved the mystery of what caused major ice ages over the last half-million years of Earth’s history. He showed that regular changes in Earth’s orbit result in periods of lower global temperature, and these periods correspond to the timing of past ice ages.

Published by John White

A lifetime (over 50 years) of experiences with automation and control systems ranging from aerospace navigation, radar, and ordinance delivery systems to the world's first robotic drilling machine for the oil patch, to process-control systems, energy management systems and general problem-solving. At present, my focus is on self-funding HVAC retrofit projects and indoor air quality with a view to preventing infections from airborne pathogens.

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