(Credit: Getty Images)
Although it seems counterintuitive, over the eons, glaciers may have made Earth warmer, a new study suggests.
Researchers took a data-driven dive into the mechanics of weathering by glaciation over millions of years to see how glacial cycles affected the oceans and atmosphere and continue to do so. They wanted to know how and when chemicals released by weathering of the land reached the atmosphere and ocean, and what effect they have had.
Their study shows that glaciation, through enhanced erosion, probably increased the rate of carbon dioxide released to the environment.
Weathering of Earth by glaciers may have warmed the planet over eons by aiding the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A new study shows the cumulative effect may have created negative feedback that prevented runaway glaciation. (Credit: Paul Quackenbush/Rice)
The researchers determined enhanced oxidation of pyrite, an iron sulfide also known as fool’s gold, most likely generated acidity that fed carbon dioxide into the oceans and altered the carbon cycle. The oscillation of glaciers over 10,000 years could have changed atmospheric carbon dioxide by 25 parts per million or more.