A study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has found that the Earth is capable of regulating and stabilizing its temperature across vast timescales and even after dramatic changes in climate.
The Nov. 16 study published in Science Advances elaborated on the planet’s “stabilizing feedback system,” which has allowed the existence of diverse life-forms for the past 3.7 billion years or so. While this feedback has been assumed before, the study now serves as primary evidence for the existence of this system.
“You have a planet whose climate was subjected to so many dramatic external changes,” said MIT climate scientist and study co-author Constantin Arnscheidt. “Why did life survive all this time? One argument is that we need some sort of stabilizing mechanism to keep temperatures suitable for life. But it’s never been demonstrated from data that such a mechanism has consistently controlled Earth’s climate.”
To prove this argument, Arnscheidt and his co-author Daniel Rothman investigated existing paleoclimate data collected over the last 66 million years. They applied mathematical modeling to determine whether swings in Earth’s average temperatures might be limited by one or more factors.
The MIT researchers believe that silicate weathering is a critical mechanism in how the Earth regulates its temperature. As silicate rocks endure and corrode over time, deeper layers of mineral are constantly exposed to the atmosphere. Chemical reactions with the silicates extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and trap it in rock and ocean sediment.