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Front. Astron. Space Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fspas.2019.00062

On the role of the Urey reaction in extracting carbon from the Earth's atmosphere and adding it to the continental crust

  • 1University of California, Davis, United States

Urey (1952a,b, 1956) introduced the Urey reaction to explain the origin of carbonates in the continental crust. The reaction extracts CO2 from the atmosphere in acid rain that reacts with calcium silicates, the products are transported to the oceans where organic and inorganic processes results in the deposition
of calcium carbonates. The origin of the CO2 can be (1) the early atmosphere and (2) the mantle. The reaction removes almost all the atmospheric CO2 that survived the formation of the Earth. If surface volcanism introduces more CO2 than is lost by subduction, the CO2 entering the atmosphere
will be lost to the continental crust by the Urey reaction. Studies of carbon fluxes between surface reservoirs have demonstrated the importance of the Urey reaction in controlling the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. At the present time the only surface reservoir with a large mass of carbon is the
continental crust. In order to to quantify the rate at which the Urey reaction removes CO2 from the atmosphere we utilize data from the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM). This was a period of elevated global temperatures (SOHT = 4 -5C) at 56 Ma attributed to a pulse of volcanism and associated
CO2 in the north Atlantic. We utilize the decay time of this thermal anomaly to quantify the rate at which CO2 is extracted from the atmosphere by the Urey reaction.

Keywords: Urey Reaction, Carbon, Continental crust, Atmosphere, Early Earth

Received: 30 Apr 2019; Accepted: 13 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Turcotte. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mx. Donald Turcotte, University of California, Davis, Davis, United States, dlturcotte@ucdavis.edu