Oman Mountains Hold Clues For Reversing Climate Change

Posted: Apr 15 2017, 2:53pm CDT | by , Updated: Apr 15 2017, 2:58pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Oman Mountains Hold Clues for Reversing Climate Change
Credit: Columbia University

By analyzing core samples, researchers are hoping to uncover how a natural process millions of years ago transformed CO2 into limestone and marble

As the Earth continues to warm, researchers around the world are trying to find ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and slowing down the progression of climate change. But some researchers are also aiming to remove or recycle carbon already found in the seas and atmosphere.

A team of geologists is currently drilling into the Oman's al-Hajjar mountains to understand how carbon dioxide naturally transforms into limestone and marble. The valley is one of world’s few exposed sections of the Earth’s mantle and can help find a more efficient way to remove carbon dioxide form skies and oceans and even to reverse climate change.

A power plant in Iceland is already converting carbon into chalky substance and storing it underground. China also has a massive fertilizer plant that filters carbon dioxide and reuses as fuel. But researchers are looking for a more reliable and efficient method to lock carbon away permanently.

"Any one technique is not guaranteed to succeed," said Stuart Haszeldine, a geology professor at the University of Edinburgh. "If we're interested as a species, we've got to try a lot harder and do a lot more and a lot of different actions."

Al Hajar is the highest mountain range in the eastern Arabian Peninsula where a unique rock formation sucks carbon out of thin air. The formation comprises the remains of an ancient seafloor and the most common rock mantle of this place is known as peridotite which directly reacts with the carbon in air and water and turns into marble and limestone.

Peter Kelemen, a geologist at Columbia University has been working in Oman for years, along with colleagues and has been collecting samples, mapping formations and performing experiments back in the lab. He has found that the reactions are far more rapid and prevalent than previously thought. Many sample rocks date back to millions of years ago while some are formed during human time and the process is ongoing and fast.

“There's about a billion tons of CO2 in this mountain," said Kelemen. “Every single magnesium atom in these rocks has made friends with the carbon dioxide to form solid limestone, magnesium carbonate, plus quartz.”

Al-Hajjar Mountains, once part of a seabed, appeared around 95 million years ago when normal tectonic process went awry.

By analyzing tons of core samples collected from different sites, researchers are hoping to answer the question of how the rocks managed to capture so much CO2 over the course of 90 million years and to see if they can speed the process up.

Carbon dioxide is a primary greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. Kelemen thinks that with some engineering and natural carbonate-forming reactions, humans can also draw massive amounts of CO2 from our overburdened atmosphere and store it underground.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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