The wheels made of Carbon go round and round...

Hello folks! I have to say, I think I have learned more about chemistry in the last week or so then I did in all my chemistry classes in college!

 Honestly! I had no earthly clue there were so many websites about chemistry. They range from the very basic to mind-blowing! I am telling you this because I am not going to reinvent the wheel! I have found a very good, thorough yet understandable, website that describes everything that I had planned on teaching you. The website is: Rader’s Chem4Kids.org (http://www.chem4kids.com/index.html).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actually, truth be told, I was so impressed with this site that I read through the whole thing. I have to say that I don’t usually do that. I skim and take information as needed but very rarely do I devote a lot of time to one website. I will say that if you are more advanced in your chemistry learning, the website only covers the first 36 elements, so to go farther into the table, you will have to glean that information elsewhere. However, if you are just starting out, maybe taking chemistry for the first time, brushing up on it to take it again, or helping your kids with their homework, this is the site for you.

Now, what am I going to write about? Well, in my last post, I talked about Carbon and mentioned, briefly, the carbon cycle. I started to think about it. We have the Carbon cycle, the Nitrogen cycle, the Rock cycle, and the Water cycle. On top of that, we have certain cyclic processes that effect earth, including the energy cycle, the ocean current cycle, and the atmosphere’s cycle. Ugh! I think I will talk about those! So, today, I think, because I already started it, I will write about the carbon cycle.

Ah, what to say about the carbon cycle…well, a lot actually! It is one of the most fundamental cycles we have on Earth. Carbon can be found as a gas and a solid.

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Let’s start with the components of the carbon cycle. To become a gas, carbon attaches to other atoms. For example, carbon and oxygen get together and make one of the most famous greenhouse gasses, carbon dioxide (CO2).

 It can also attach to other elements to make more infamous greenhouse gases, such as Methane (CH4).

Both of these cycle through the atmosphere and play an important role in how carbon is transferred.

Now, let’s look at the solid forms of carbon. Carbon is concentrated into solids usually through living things, i.e. dinosaurs and organic materials. When these break down, they release their carbon and create other materials, such as oil and coal. As a matter of fact, over 99% of organisms are carbon based life forms.

No! Really, I am made of carbon!!!

Now, I have to interject one thing…cycles are not round. Yes, I know. It’s frustrating but it is, nevertheless, true. When we think cycle, we think round, but in reality, cycle means: “a set of events or actions that happen again and again in the same order; a repeating series of events or actions” according to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cycle.

Carbon can attach to oxygen or other gases to cylce through our atmosphere. In it's solid form, it can break down to its most elemental form and become nutrients that are taken up as nutrients or turned into things such as oil or fossils. In fact, carbon is all around us! Confused yet? No, you got this!

So, let’s tackle the cycle!

Organisms and waste products from animals decay below the surface of the earth. Part of this carbon creates fossils and fossil fuels which may be harvested as oil, coal and natural gas. Root respiration (breathing) also contributes to subterranean carbon deposits. At the same time these plant roots are breathing out carbon, they are taking in carbon as a nutrient.

 

Carbon is propelled into the atmosphere by various means, including natural and manmade methods. For example, carbon can be pushed into the atmosphere via: 

 

 

   car exhaust...

 

 

  factory emmisions...

 

  or electricity generation!

 

 

Natural methods might include:

 

 Wild Fires

 Volcanoes

 

  Decomposition/Compost.

 

It seems there are many ways for carbon can get into our air and earth. But there is good news! There are natural scrubbers for carbon compounds! For example, trees take in CO2 and combine it with water in a process known as photosynthesis. When the sun activates photosynthesis, the plants create oxygen and sugar. Animals eat the sugar, breath in the oxygen and then breathe out carbon dioxide!

<You know, I was going to put a picture in here, but I have to say, I couldn't find one that wasn't freaky!!!>

The ocean is another natural scrubber of CO2. The ocean takes in the gas and stores it for periods of time that can range from a few hours to a million years. Phytoplankton’s digest this greenhouse gas after the currents pulls the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Scripps Institute “calculated that 26 percent of all the carbon released as CO2 from fossil fuel burning, cement manufacture, and land-use changes over the decade 2002–2011 was absorbed by the oceans. (About 28 percent went to plants and roughly 46 percent to the atmosphere.)”[1]

Okay, I know your head is hurting, but just one more thing that is very important to this cycle--Greenhouse gases. They are gasses that trap heat inside our atmosphere. If we did not have the carbon cycle in place, the greenhouse gases would be totally out of whack and we would be just like Venus--Hot and gassy! 

So, it is very important that we learn about the Carbon Cycle and learn to manage the way we use and abuse carbon based materials! Becuase, ultimately, we don't want this!!!

 

Well, I hope you learned something today! I would love to hear your feedback! Until the next time, Yours in a solid Carbon State,

Jacki

 

By the way, I used the following helpful sources for this blog and the pictures!

http://rememberdinosaurs.com/dino-memes/chemistry-cat-carbon-dates/

https://eo.ucar.edu/kids/green/cycles6.htm

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/research/themes/carbon/

www.car-emissions-explained.co.uk

animals.howstuffworks.com

http://www.nrdc.org/oceans/ (Ocean Pic)

http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Venus_Express/Greenhouse_effect_clouds_and_winds
 

[1] https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/2013/07/03/how-much-co2-can-the-oceans-take-up/

 
 

 

Educational Blogger

About the Educational Blogger

Emma Merlo studied theater and music at Austin College for four years, and toured nationally with the Missoula Children’s Theater for two years.  She has taught kids all over the US from age 2 to age 18. She loves science education and especially space!