The Carbon Cycle

  • Exhibition Text

    • Carbon is a major component of all life, and in the form of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, it helps to maintain a habitable range in temperatures. Carbon moves through all the Earth’s reservoirs. Most of it is contained in sedimentary rocks: coal, chalk, lime-stone, and shale. But carbon in sedimentary rocks, with an average residence time of 400 million years, participates little in global carbon circulation over shorter times. The average residence times of carbon in the atmosphere (5 years), the biosphere (13 years), and the oceans (350 years) are much shorter.

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  • For Educators

    • Topic: Earth Science

      Subtopic: Minerals and Resources

      Keywords: Earth (Planet), Ocean, Climate, Atmosphere, Carbon cycle (Biogeochemistry), Biosphere, Atmospheric carbon dioxide, Fossil fuels

      Audience: General

In This Section

The "missing" carbon

The "missing" carbon

The amount of man-made carbon released into the atmosphere can be determined by knowing the quantities of fossil fuels burned.