Paleozoic Atmospheric CO2: Importance of Solar Radiation and Plant Evolution

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Science  02 Jul 1993:
Vol. 261, Issue 5117, pp. 68-70
DOI: 10.1126/science.261.5117.68


Changes in solar radiation, as it affects the rate of weathering of silicates on the continents, and other changes involving weathering and the degassing of carbon dioxide (CO2) have been included in a long-term carbon-cycle model. These additions to the model show that the major controls on CO2 concentrations during the Paleozoic era were solar and biological, and not tectonic, in origin. The model predictions agree with independent estimates of a large mid-Paleozoic (400 to 320 million years ago) drop in CO2 concentrations, which led to large-scale glaciation. This agreement indicates that variations in the atmospheric greenhouse effect were important in global climate change during the distant geologic past.