Carbon and Climate

A very important part of the carbon cycle is the influence of CO2 on Earth's climate. Carbon dioxide is one of several gases in the air (water vapor is the most important one) that trap heat near the surface, causing the surface to be warmed. This process is known as the greenhouse effect. If there were no greenhouse gases in the atmosphere the surface temperature would be about 35°C colder on average than it is, and life on Earth would be very different. More CO2 means more warming, that is, higher average surface temperature. That means that the amount of CO2 and other green

house gases in the air has a strong influence on the climate of Earth. Furthermore, since many parts of the carbon cycle, such as the plants and soils on land, and the chemistry of the oceans, are sensitive to climate, a change in climate can cause a change in the carbon cycle. For example, in the temperate zone during a warm spring, leaves will come out on the trees earlier than in a cool spring. With a longer growing season the plants can remove more CO2 from the air, and will grow faster.

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