Earth’s Thermostat in the Rocks

Earths Thermostat in the Rocks

A new report shows that rain, carbon dioxide, and various kinds of rocks are major players in controlling Earth’s climate. The study, led by Penn State University, pooled data from 45 soil sites and many watersheds worldwide to see how the weathering of rocks combines with rain to stabilize climate. You might call it Earth’s thermostat in the rocks.

We know that volcanoes have emitted large amounts of carbon dioxide, potentially turning the planet into a greenhouse. However, rain dissolves the carbon dioxide out of the air, creating a weak acid that falls to the surface. The acid wears away the rocks in Earth’s crust, and carbon is part of the byproducts of this action. Streams and rivers carry the carbon to the ocean, where it is eventually locked away in sedimentary rocks.

Richard Yuretich, a program director of the National Science Foundation’s Division of Earth Sciences, says that the breakdown of rocks into soil “removes significant amounts of carbon dioxide and water from the atmosphere, processes that are also related to temperature.” As the temperature rises, the rate of carbon sequestration increases, helping to control the greenhouse effect. This process creates what is essentially Earth’s thermostat to help maintain a relatively constant temperature.

This new research will significantly impact our understanding of climate change. It helps us understand how Earth’s design has allowed a constant temperature throughout the past’s varied activity of carbon emissions. How much effect it will have in the future as humans add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere remains to be seen. However, there have been past periods of significant volcanic activity, so the carbon dioxide levels have not been static.

Earth’s thermostat in the rocks is just one more example of how the planet’s design has made it possible for life to exist during climate changes. We know that the thermostat in our car or home was designed with intelligence. Likewise, the thermostat built into our planet is also not some accidental device but is essential for the existence of life on Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: The National Science Foundation Research News Report, March 8, 2023, and the journal Science, 26 Jan 2023