A single typhoon in Taiwan buries as much carbon in the ocean in the form of sediment as all the other rains in that country all year long combined, impeding the carbon cycle, a study by Ohio State University (OSU) said.
The study was the first to examine the chemistry of stream water and sediments that were being washed out to sea during a typhoon.
Anne Carey, associate professor of earth sciences at OSU, and her team studied physical weathering, when organic matter containing carbon adheres to soil that is washed into the ocean and buried, and chemical, when silicate rock on the mountainside is exposed to carbon dioxide and water and the rock disintegrates.
The carbon washes out to sea, where it eventually forms calcium carbonate and gets deposited on the ocean floor.
If the carbon gets buried in the ocean, it eventually becomes part of sedimentary rock and does not return to the atmosphere for hundreds of millions of years.
Knowing how much carbon is buried offshore of mountainous islands like Taiwan could help scientists make better estimates of how much carbon is in the atmosphere and help them decipher its effect on climate change.