Processes of the Long Term Carbon Cycle Degassing of Carbon Dioxide and Methane

Degassing of CO2 and CH4 to the atmosphere and oceans is the process whereby carbon is restored to the surficial system after being buried in rocks. Carbon dioxide is released by a variety of processes. This includes volcanic emissions from the mantle and metamorphic and diagenetic decarbonation of limestones and organic matter. Volcanic degassing can occur over subduction zones, at mid-ocean rises, on the continents, and in the interior of oceanic plates. Degassing can be sudden and violent, as during volcanic eruptions, or slow and semi-continuous in the form of fumaroles, springs, gas vents, and continually degassing volcanic vents. An outstanding example of the latter is Mt. Etna, which contributes about 10% to total global degassing (Caldeira and Rampino, 1992). Metamorphic degassing is concentrated in zones of seafloor subduction (Barnes et al., 1978), crustal convergence (Kerrick and Caldeira, 1998), and crustal extension (Kerrick et al., 1995). Most methane degassing on a geologic time scale occurs from organic matter diagenesis slowly from coal, oil, and kerogen maturation and suddenly from methane hydrate breakdown. A smaller amount of CH4 emanates from mid-ocean hydrothermal vents.

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