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Volcanic degassing of carbon dioxide plays an important role in keeping the atmosphere-ocean portion of the carbon geochemical cycle in balance. The atmosphere-ocean carbon deficit requires replenishment of 6??1012 mol CO2/yr, and places an upper limit on the output of carbon dioxide from volcanoes. The CO2 output of the global mid-oceanic ridge system is ca. 0.7??1012 mol/yr, thus supplying only a fraction of the amount needed to balance the carbon deficit. The carbon dioxide flux from subaerial volcanoes is poorly known, but it appears to be at least as large as the mid-oceanic ridge flux. Much (perhaps most) of the CO2 emitted from volcanoes is degassed noneruptively. This mode of degassing may lead to impacts on the environment and biosphere that are fundamentally different in character from those envisioned in published scenarios, which are based on the assumption that CO2 degassing occurs predominantly by eruptive processes. Although the flux of carbon dioxide from volcanoes is poorly constrained at present, it is clearly two orders of magnitude lower than the anthropogenic output of CO2.
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Natural sources of greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide emissions from volcanoes