Global Warming & the Carbon Cycle

Most of the coal that powered the Industrial Revolution formed 300 million years ago, in steaming swamps that covered much of the tropical and temperature areas of North America. Over millions of years, the growth and then burial of this huge plant biomass significantly raised the level of oxygen and lowered the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Image courtesy of

Right now, carbon is a biogeochemical cycle in transition, possibly even upheaval. The prehistoric earth had a much higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and considerably more carbon was cycling in the vegetation and animals of ancient jungles and swamps, and in the sea creatures that lived at the time.

Slowly, this reservoir of organic carbon was converted into coal, oil, and natural gas, where it remained for millions of years. The Industrial Revolution began freeing that tied-up carbon and pumping it back into the atmosphere through the combustion of fossil fuels.
Last modified: Monday, 5 March 2012, 11:24 AM