Research CommentariesOCEAN CHEMISTRY

Black Carbon and the Carbon Cycle

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Science  19 Jun 1998:
Vol. 280, Issue 5371, pp. 1903-1904
DOI: 10.1126/science.280.5371.1903

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When vegetation and fossil fuels burn, the combustion creates "black carbon" that becomes distributed throughout the environment. Determining how it is created and where it goes is important for studying the past history of fire and for understanding global carbon and oxygen budgets. In his Research Commentary, Kuhlbusch discusses results reported in the same issue by Masiello and Druffel in which carbon mass and isotope measurements were used to study the age of black carbon in ocean sediment. They find that the black carbon is 2400 to 13,900 years older than the concurrently deposited sediment, suggesting that the black carbon must have been stored in some as-yet unknown intermediate pool.