Oh Noes!!! 100 TRILLION TONS of Molten Carbon Under Pressure!!!

What if Yellowstone blows up and it isn’t a ROCK eruption but a molten CARBON eruption?

There’s 100 Trillion Tons of molten carbon under it. Quick tax the Volcano!!!

;-0 to some extent… but the carbon, it seems, is there.

This guy seems to think the solar wind has something to do with melting it, but despite that, does a nice job of the maps and graphs.

Wondering if there was any truth in it, found this (among many others):


There’s a massive lake of liquid carbon sitting under Yellowstone
Estimates of the total amount of carbon held on Earth may have to be revised upwards.

Martha Henriques
By Martha Henriques
Updated February 14, 2017 11:44 GMT

The western US is sitting on a lake of melting carbon stretching over an area of 1.8 million square kilometres, or almost 20% of the entire country.

This reservoir holds carbon at a temperatures of more than 1,000C, and is buried about 350km below the surface of the US. The area it covers is equal to the areas of Germany, France, Italy and Spain combined, and it is between 25 and 70 km deep.
The results are published in a paper in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Carbon gets into the Earth’s mantle by subduction, where tectonic plates with carbon-rich rocks are forced down into the hot mantle region and melt. Less than half of that carbon typically re-emerges at the surface via volcanoes.

The study authors say there could be many more such lakes near other subduction zones. The finding suggests that the amount of carbon that the Earth holds has been underestimated, and there could be up to 100 trillion metric tonnes of carbon on the planet.

Well, don’t tell Algore or The Green Blob or they will have to put in place a Carbon Tax on Gaia…

The paper pointer leads to:


Earth and Planetary Science Letters

Volume 463, 1 April 2017, Pages 25-35

Pervasive upper mantle melting beneath the western US

We report from converted seismic waves, a pervasive seismically anomalous layer above the transition zone beneath the western US. The layer, characterized by an average shear wave speed reduction of 1.6%, spans over an area of ~1.8 x 10^6 km^2 with thicknesses varying between 25 and 70 km. The location of the layer correlates with the present location of a segment of the Farallon plate. This spatial correlation and the sharp seismic signal atop of the layer indicate that the layer is caused by compositional heterogeneity. Analysis of the seismic signature reveals that the compositional heterogeneity can be ascribed to a small volume of partial melt (0.5 ± 0.2 vol% on average). This article presents the first high resolution map of the melt present within the layer. Despite spatial variations in temperature, the calculated melt volume fraction correlates strongly with the amplitude of P–S conversion throughout the region. Comparing the values of temperature calculated from the seismic signal with available petrological constraints, we infer that melting in the layer is caused by release of volatiles from the subducted Farallon slab. This partially molten zone beneath the western US can sequester at least 1.2 x 10^7 kg of volatiles, and can act as a large regional reservoir of volatile species such as H or C.

H or C? Can you say “Oil”? Perhaps abiogenic oil? I knew you could…

Includes a link to 24 MB of supplementary data available as a tar file under the creative commons license.

Back at the first link again:

If just 1% of the carbon stored in these melted reservoirs were released into the atmosphere, it would be the equivalent of burning 2.3 trillion barrels of oil, the study authors said. However, it is not expected to rise up for a very long time.

But don’t worry about all that potential horrible carbon (or oil or oil equivalents), it ought to have a long residence time…

Phys Org has it too, so it must be real… /sarc;


Scientists uncover huge reservoir of melting carbon under Western United States
February 13, 2017, Royal Holloway, University of London

New research published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters describes how scientists have used the world’s largest array of seismic sensors to map a deep-Earth area of melting carbon covering 1.8 million square kilometres. Situated under the Western US, 350km beneath the Earth’s surface, the discovered melting region challenges accepted understanding of how much carbon the Earth contains – much more than previously understood.

The study, conducted by geologist at Royal Holloway, University of London’s Department of Earth Sciences used a huge network of 583 seismic sensors that measure the Earth’s vibrations, to create a picture of the area’s deep sub surface. Known as the upper mantle, this section of the Earth’s interior is recognised by its high temperatures where solid carbonates melt, creating very particular seismic patterns.

“It would be impossible for us to drill far enough down to physically ‘see’ the Earth’s mantle, so using this massive group of sensors we have to paint a picture of it using mathematical equations to interpret what is beneath us,” said Dr Sash Hier-Majumder of Royal Holloway.

He continued, “Under the western US is a huge underground partially-molten reservoir of liquid carbonate. It is a result of one of the tectonic plates of the Pacific Ocean forced underneath the western USA, undergoing partial melting thanks to gasses like CO2 and H2O contained in the minerals dissolved in it.”

As a result of this study, scientists now understand the amount of CO2 in the Earth’s upper mantle may be up to 100 trillion metric tons. In comparison, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the global carbon emission in 2011 was nearly 10 billion metric tons – a tiny amount in comparison. The deep carbon reservoir discovered by Dr. Hier-Majumder will eventually make its way to the surface through volcanic eruptions, and contribute to climate change albeit very slowly.

So once again we have the conflating of CARBON with carbonATE. Damn I wish tech writers had to take a chemistry class. Just one. Please. So it’s really 100 Trillion MT of carbon dioxide as carbonATE. 1 x 10 ^ 12 MT. We ’emit’ 1 x 10^6, so six orders of magnitude less.

Now what are the odds they have no clue how much of this stuff, that nature creates, gets vented to the surface or into the oceans each year and how much it varies over 10,000 years?

But they are so sure my BBQ is going to destroy the world in a fiery catastrophe. Even though we are floating on a liquid pool of “carbon” at 1000 C and eventually to return to the surface.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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15 Responses to Oh Noes!!! 100 TRILLION TONS of Molten Carbon Under Pressure!!!

  1. Larry Ledwick says:

    This reservoir holds carbon at a temperatures of more than 1,000C, and is buried about 350km below the surface of the US.

    Does not compute!

    Carbon doesn’t really have a melting point. Well, theoretically it does but it doesn’t melt. It sublimes at around 3900 K. It has the highest sublimation point of all elements. It happens in a curve. So it will still be a solid even above its highest theoretical melting temperature.
    source = [https://www.quora.com/Why-does-carbon-have-such-a-unique-melting-point]

  2. philjourdan says:

    Good thing it is only 1k degree Celsius! At least the diamonds will not melt.

    But the earth has been melting and blowing carbon for billions of years. How are we not all soot babies? By the time it expels that amount of carbon, an equal (or almost) amount will have been subducted back into the mantle.

  3. John F. Hultquist says:

    Note the culprit is the missing Farallon Plate.
    Note also, 30 miles west of San Francisco are the Farallon Islands.
    Coincidence? I think not.

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @John F.:

    The plate is named for the Islands and they are closely related. They sit on one of the remaining fragments of it.


    Yeah, I was trying not to shout at my computer when they were ooohing over the fact their might be Carbon down in the dirt!… I was just thinking “Where do you think diamonds are made?”…


    The first two links confounded Carbon with CarbonATE. It’s a molten carbonate… as I slyly tried to make a snide point about at the end, but apparently not well enough.

    In fact, one of the first things I did was look up the melting point of Carbon ( it sublimes, but has a triple point at something like 4000 K)… was what sent me off looking for what it was really all about. Knowing the first light bulbs were made with cotton => carbon threads I was pretty sure it wasn’t actually molten carbon…

    Then the paper was paywalled, but vaguely pointed at “volatiles” of H and C content. So decided instead of the likely water vapor and CO2, I’d be snide again and point at oil as volatile…

    Then only stopped when Phys.org fingered what looked far more likely (given that carbonate rocks are being subducted) that it was stuff like molten Calcium Carbonate. (MP 825 C to 1340 C depending on crystal form).

    Then got ‘cheeky’ about it…

    Explaining it just isn’t the same ;-)

  5. ossqss says:

    I will have to dig into my VEI items later when I get home. If memory serves me, Toba was much bigger than all other by comparison.

  6. Larry Ledwick says:

    Yes I know I was just addressing the literal question.

  7. Graeme No.3 says:

    Calcium carbonate is very common in rocks laid down in the seas e.g. the White Cliffs of Dover. Actually far more of England see map https://blog.everythingdinosaur.co.uk/blog/_archives/2012/01/page/3

    Calcium carbonate decomposes around 660℃ to calcium oxide and CO2 gas. Don’t tell the reporters or we will have hysterics all over the place,

  8. Chris in Calgary says:

    So where did all that carbon come from? The Earth’s atmosphere. By some estimates, up to 90 times the current Earth’s atmosphere worth of carbon has been removed from the atmosphere by geologic and biologic processes.


    This is complicated by other science which seems to indicate that the Earth’s atmosphere was thinner 2.7 billion years ago than it was today.


    Further, we know that the atmosphere was at least 3.7 times thicker than now, in the age of pterodactyls. Otherwise those wouldn’t have been able to fly.

    In any case, there do seem to be huge reserves of carbon that were removed from the atmosphere into the crust and mantle of the Earth — reserves that are still there, and will allow us to manage the atmosphere’s carbon content should we survive to do that.

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    The problem is that carbon recycle depends on volcanic activity that depends on nuclear decay. Eventually we run out of nuclear heat and become like Mars… All the carbon locked up in rocks and the air fading away to nothingness…

  10. Larry Ledwick says:

    One explanation for the large scale stripping of CO2 from our atmosphere is erosion processes and organic material burial. Specifically the large amount of exposed fresh rock that appeared after the uplift of major mountain chains like the Himalaya mountain range , the Andes and the Rocky Mountains.

    First there is chemical capture and stripping from the weathering of the freshly exposed rock and silt generated by the mountain streams and erosion, then you get verdant growth in the deep sediment soils produced by the large scale weathering of all that rock, and its deposts of silt and clay in the valleys.



  11. ossqss says:

    Well, upon reviewing the VEI info, it doesn’t matter which level 8 item comes up. We will not have to worry too much about CO2 if it happens. It is interesting that most people who worry about CO2 think there is some magically linear relationship with temperature. When I ask about their take on ECS or Albedo on climate, I always get a blank stare. I guess I should expect that in today’s world. My biggest concern would be hops and barley impacts if we had a big Volcanic interruption! I now need to inspect shelf life of those ;-)

  12. E.M.Smith says:


    It depends on the form of the hops and barley and the manner of the storage.

    For canned malt extract already hopped: storage life in many years to decades. Perhaps many decades. Likely limited by the tendency for the can liner to eventually break down allowing internal rust. I’ve used a can of hopped extract that I’d accidentally “stored” for about a decade without issue.

    Stored under vacuum or dry nitrogen (or dry CO2 via dry ice pellet into canning jar) both dry grain and dry hops pellets (compressed hops) ought to also keep for years. I’ve had grain stored for many years under dry nitrogen and it was fine. Similarly, dry goods stored under partial vacuum in a canning jar (food saver system for pulling a vacuum) kept nicely for at least 8 years IIRC.

    Your biggest threats are moisture, oxygen, and heat. The biggest at risk substances in the grain and hops are the unsaturated oils and flavor compounds that can be lost or go rancid. These are attacked by oxygen. For this reason, best storage is in sealed containers from which the oxygen has been removed. For the home gamer, the easiest way to do this is put a chunk of dry ice that, when evaporated, will fill a jar; into the bottom of the jar. Then fill it with the commodity in question. The CO2 from the dry ice is heavier than air and displaces it. Once it is all evaporated, tighten the lid. Second best is to “pull a vacuum” on the jar. This still works very well (for the modest vacuums such food storage systems create) but a small amount of air remains in the jar and flavors can degrade over several years.

    Use glass jars with metal lids. These are water proof and air proof.

    Do NOT store them in the garage or outbuilding. Store them in an air conditioned space, or preferably in a freezer. Seeds stored in sealed glass jars in a freezer will sprout for decades, showing they are not degraded.

    I know you put a ;-) face on it, but this is beer we’re talking about here! This is serious stuff and not to be taken lightly…


    Like most things in brewing, the answer is, “It depends.” If you keep them very cold and free from oxygen, hops should last a few years. It’s not uncommon for hop brokers to be selling pelletized and vacuum-sealed hops from two or three seasons ago. Commercial breweries continue to use last year’s crop well into the current year’s harvest. This is not to say that the oils and a-acids will be exactly the same as when you purchased them, but the hops won’t be “bad”; hops are not considered “bad” until they get below 50% of their original a-acid value

    Hope that helps 9-)

  13. Oliver Manuel says:

    E. M Smith,

    That CoO2 has been locked inside the Earth since the planet first formed from hot radioactive supernova debris

    CO2 under high pressure carries excess Xe-129 from the decay of 16 M yr I-129 and excess Xe-131-136 from the decay of 80 Myr Pu-244 in the very early history of the planet, Earth

    http://www.omatumr.com/archive/XenonRecord.pdf (Science, 1971)

    You may also enjoy reading about the Higher Power of AA members:


    Sent from my iPhone


  14. oldbrew says:

    Methane lakes on Saturn’s giant moon Titan are also a killer for fossil fuel theorists.

  15. nickreality65 says:

    The up/down/”back” radiation greenhouse gas energy loop of the radiative greenhouse effect theory is pencil on paper, a spreadsheet cell, a “what if” scenario and NOT a physical reality.

    Without this GHG energy loop, radiative greenhouse theory collapses.

    Without RGHE theory, man-caused climate change does not exist.

    And with a snap of the fingers and “Presto!!” the bazillion dollar global climate change fantasy is suddenly unemployed.

    Must be why nobody is allowed to talk about this possibility. Not newsworthy enough? Or too far outside the fake news hysterical CAGW narrative?

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