Copyright

What Is the Role of Water in the Carbon Cycle?

What Is the Role of Water in the Carbon Cycle?
Coming up next: How Does Acid Rain Affect Humans & Animals?

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 What Is the Carbon Cycle?
  • 1:09 Carbon Cycle Steps
  • 2:43 Oceans in the Carbon Cycle
  • 4:19 Precipitation and Groundwater
  • 4:50 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb
In this lesson, we'll go over the basics of the carbon cycle, then we'll examine the role water plays. We'll look at the role of both oceans and precipitation.

What Is the Carbon Cycle?

Picture a world where our oceans have flooded the shores. Vacation destinations for umbrellas and tiki drinks are long gone under rising sea levels. Precipitation increases in some areas, causing mass flooding. Other areas have dried up, decreasing crop yields. Animals like polar bears and seals decrease drastically in number, due to these changes in climate. Although this bleak scenario is somewhat far off, it's a real consequence of disrupting the carbon cycle.

The carbon cycle is the global movement of carbon between living and non-living things. Recently increased levels of carbon dioxide are contributing to a process called global warming, which as it sounds, is a global increase in temperature. Some of the predicted long term effects of global warming are described above, and until we restore an equilibrium of the carbon cycle, this could be our future. Today, we're going to learn the details of the carbon cycle and how water helps regulate it.

Carbon Cycle Steps

The 'cycle' part of the carbon cycle indicates it goes around in a circle, with no clear beginning and end point. For our purposes, let's start with carbon in living things. Carbon is the main element making up all living things on Earth. Trees take in carbon from the atmosphere and use a process called photosynthesis to turn it into sugar. The tree then uses the sugar to build its structure. This means that the giant sequoia trees over 200 feet tall were, basically, dependent on carbon in the air in order to form. Trees are a major player in removing carbon from the atmosphere. We, too, are made of carbon, but unlike trees, we humans - as well as other animals, fungi, and bacteria - add carbon to the atmosphere.

The earth and oceans are also major carbon sinks, or stores of carbon. Rocks, such as coal, store carbon deep inside the earth, where carbon from the atmosphere has been compressed into rock over millions of years. When oceans absorb carbon from the atmosphere, some dissolves in the ocean and some is incorporated into ocean plants and animals.

Recently, humans have been disrupting this cycle. Drilling for carbon reservoirs, like coal and natural gas, have removed carbon from the earth. When we burn these materials, we return the carbon to the atmosphere at a rate that is higher than what is absorbed, leading to an increase in atmospheric carbon and thus, global warming.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support