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Carbon concerns

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How much carbon is coming out?

By Michael Banks in Washington, DC

“Carbon is the most important element, but we are deeply ignorant of its effect on the Earth,” says Robert Hazen from the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Hazen is the principal investigator of the deep carbon observatory – a 10-year programme funded by the Alfred Sloan Foundation to better understand the Earth’s carbon cycle.

It’s a wide-ranging study and speaking at the 2011 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, DC, Hazen spelled out the many questions that remain unanswered about carbon. These include how much of the element is stored in the Earth, especially in the core, and how much of the material is released when a volcano erupts.

In the case of a volcanic eruption, Hazen says some scientists conclude carbon makes up around 2% of the material ejected, while others say it is more like 75% – a big discrepancy that the programme will hope to reduce.

The programme only started in 2009 so Hazen is issuing a call to arms for scientists of different backgrounds to come together and join the project.

You will have to be quick as proposals for research activities must be submitted by 11 March.

Read more about the programme here.

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One comment to Carbon concerns

  1. Peter F Gill

    This is an important study not least because most volcanic activity is undersea, unobserved and unmeasured. There is a need to properly characterise the carbon isotopic distribution for each carbon sink/carbon source on land, in oceans and lake s and in ocean and lake beds.The study would be a great opportunity to make progres in this area. I trust that in the course of the study the implications of Henry’s Law with be thorougly studied in the light of the istotopic distributions found.

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