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Can rocks restore the climate?

Courtesy: Van Christou

Courtesy: Van Christou

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    Digital writers

    Monday, August 12, 2013, 6:10 PM -

    Researchers at Oxford University believe that rocks can help the Earth recover from the effects of climate change far faster than originally thought.

    But the process won't happen overnight: Scientists say it can take up to 300,000 years for emissions to decline.

    Rocks were sampled from two separate sites in England. Researchers wanted to see how the weathering of rocks helped reset the climate after CO2 emissions were spewed into the atmosphere following more than 10,000 years of volcanic eruptions 93 million years ago.

    "In chemical weathering CO2 from the atmosphere dissolved in rainwater reacts with rocks such as basalt or granite, dissolving them so that this atmospheric carbon then flows into the oceans, where a large proportion is ‘trapped’ in the bodies of marine organisms," the university writes.

    "The team tested the idea that, as CO2 warms the planet, the reactions involved in chemical weathering speed up, causing more CO2 to be ‘locked away’, until, if CO2 emissions decline, the climate begins to cool again. The Oxford team looked at evidence from the ‘Ocean Anoxic Event 2’ in the Late Cretaceous ... [and] found that during this period chemical weathering increased, locking away more CO2 as the world warmed and enabling the Earth to stabilise to a cooler climate within 300,000 years, up to four times faster than previously thought."

    The team says the findings are 'good news' that demonstrate the Earth's ability to heal itself.

    The complete findings can be found in Nature Geoscience.

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