Soil May Release More Carbon than Expected, Affecting Climate Change Models


Some 80 percent of Earth’s carbon is held in soil. 

Some 80 percent of Earth’s carbon is held in soil. Now droughts are causing the release of increasing amounts of greenhouse gases.

The accuracy of climate models depends on many factors—greenhouse gas emissions from industrial and transportation activity, farm animal “emissions,” urban growth and loss of forests, and solar reflections off snow and ground cover. Natural phenomena like volcanic eruptions also contribute and are incorporated into models.

But some other natural processes have been overlooked. Farshid Vahedifard, professor and Louis Berger Chair in civil and environmental engineering, points to an important one that lies directly beneath our feet and covers most of our planet above water.

In a study published in Environmental Research Letters, Vahedifard notes that soil stores 80 percent of carbon on Earth, and with increasing cycles and severity of droughts in several regions, that crucial reservoir is cracking and breaking down, releasing even more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In fact, it may be creating an amplified feedback loop that could accelerate climate change well beyond current predictions.

Read more at Tufts University

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