A new study by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), published in Science Advances, confirms that the planet is home to a “balancing reaction” mechanism that has been operating for hundreds of thousands of years and maintaining global temperatures into a stable, habitable range by pushing the climate back from the edge of the abyss.
So how does the world achieve this? “Silicate wear” is one possible mechanism for this. In this geological process, chemical reactions occur as silicate rocks slowly and steadily erode, eventually pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and sending it to ocean sediments and trapping this gas in the rocks.
CHANGES IN 66 MILLION YEARS ARE RECORDED
In the news in Turkish science popularization Scientists have long suspected that silicate weathering plays an important role in regulating the Earth’s carbon cycle. The erosion mechanism of silicates can provide a constant geological force to keep carbon dioxide (and global temperatures) in check. But no direct evidence has so far been found of continued activity of these reactions.
The new findings are based on a study of paleoclimate data that records changes in global temperature averages over the past 66 million years. Applying mathematical analysis, the MIT research team tried to see if a pattern would emerge in the data, typical of the stabilization phenomenon that holds global temperatures to a geologic timescale.
The analysis indeed revealed a consistent pattern in which the Earth’s temperature fluctuations faded over time periods of hundreds of thousands of years. The duration of this effect is similar to the time scales over which silicate weathering activity is predicted.
The results are the first to confirm the existence of compensatory feedback using real data, possibly indicating silicate wear. This balanced feedback may explain how the Earth remained habitable despite dramatic climatic events in its geological past.
“On the one hand, it’s a good thing because we know that today’s global warming will eventually be neutralized thanks to the balancing feedback that we have been talking about,” says Constantin Arnscheidt, graduate student in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences from MIT. (APSS). “But on the other hand, it will take hundreds of thousands of years for that to happen. So it’s not fast enough to solve today’s problems.”