Enormous volcano chains ‘acted as Earth’s safety valve’ increasing and decreasing CO2, research suggests

But process cannot compete with scale of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, scientists warn. By Harry Cockburn

Monday 23 August 2021 18:06
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<p>Lava flows down Mount Merapi, Indonesia’s most active volcano, as seen from Sleman in Yogyakarta on 18 July</p>

Lava flows down Mount Merapi, Indonesia’s most active volcano, as seen from Sleman in Yogyakarta on 18 July

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With the impacts of the global climate crisis worsening, it would be quite handy if our planet had its own means of regulating greenhouse gas levels and average temperatures… It turns out such a system does exist – sort of.

New research indicates that extensive chains of volcanoes, which occur in many parts of the earth, have previously played a major role in stabilising temperatures on the Earth’s surface, according to scientists at the University of Southampton.

Over the past 400 million years, processes involving the natural breakdown and dissolution of rocks on the Earth’s surface have trapped and stored large volumes of CO2, but volcanic eruptions also emit large quantities of CO2. Researchers therefore have described the process as a “balancing act”, helping to maintain conditions favourable to life.

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