# How is carbon distributed among the atmosphere, the oceans, the biomass and the unburnt fossil fuels?

In relation to my other question about carbon cycle and climate change, i would like to know some estimates of the carbon distribution among the atmosphere, the oceans, the biomass and the unburnt fossil fuels.

Here are more specific parts of this question.

1. How much carbon is there on Earth?

2. How much carbon is there in the atmosphere (in the form of CO2 and other gases)?

3. How much carbon is there in the oceans in the form of CO2 and gases?

4. How much carbon is there currently in the biomass?

5. How much carbon is there left in the form of fossil fuels?

If possible, i would also like to know how this distribution has changed, for example, over the last 100 years (in particular, how much carbon from the fossil fuels has been burnt over the last 100 years).

• I highly suggest you take a look at the presentations here: globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/14/hl-compact.htm
– f.thorpe
Nov 9 '14 at 17:29
• I assume this question is at least somewhat related to anthropogenic global warming. If so, other forms of carbon, especially methane, are also pretty relevant. Nov 11 '14 at 1:24
• @naught101, thanks, i should have not restricted the question to CO and CO2 only, maybe i will edit it. It is not exactly about global warming, it is about carbon distribution in form, place and time. Nov 11 '14 at 8:14
• There is an interesting movie made by NASA that shows how CO2 in the atmosphere spreads across Earth. However, it only covers 2 years (May 2005-June 2007). Dec 4 '14 at 10:55

## 2 Answers

1.How much carbon is there on Earth?

Taken as whole, the Earth is estimated to be 730 parts per million carbon by mass.

So $4.4 \times 10^{21} kg$

http://quake.mit.edu/hilstgroup/CoreMantle/EarthCompo.pdf

1. How much carbon is there in the atmosphere (in the form of CO2 and CO)?

$3.1 \times 10^{15} kg$ CO2 and insignificant CO, so $8 \times 10^{14}$ kg of C.

1. How much carbon is there in the oceans in the form of CO2 and CO?

Carbon of all forms in the the ocean is $4 \times 10^{16} kg$

http://ioc-goos-oopc.org/documents/oosdp/oosdp_br5.pdf

1. How much carbon is there currently in the biomass?

$8 \times 10^{14}$ kg (not including soil)

$2 \times 10^{15}$ kg (if soil is included)

1. How much carbon is there left in the form of fossil fuels?

$5 \times 10^{15} kg$

http://www.gcrio.org/CONSEQUENCES/vol4no1/carbcycle.html

(This could be an underestimate, depending upon what you consider to be "fossil fuel"; methane clathrates are estimated to hold $10^{16}$ kg of carbon)

If possible, i would also like to know how this distribution has changed, for example, over the last 100 years (in particular, how much carbon from the fossil fuels has been burnt over the last 100 years).

The amount of carbon in the atmosphere has increased about 30% since pre-industrial times, and the amount in biomass, not including soil, has decreased about 10%. Amount in the oceans has not changed significantly.

• I wonder if it might make sense to include a crust estimate too? That total figure includes the mantle, which is on such a different scale to the atmosphere and ocean that it's not usefully comparable. It might be nice to include some kind of graph (like this), but the total figure swamps everything else. Nov 11 '14 at 1:33
• @naught101 continental crust is 200 ppm carbon according to this: gly.uga.edu/railsback/Fundamentals/ElementalAbundanceTableP.pdf Nov 11 '14 at 12:37
• @naught101 About $5 \times 10^{18} kg$ is in the crust, as the continental crust is ~200 ppm carbon and the continental crust is 0.37% of the Earth's mass. Oceanic crust is 0.1% of their Earth's mass. However, carbon enters and exists the mantle, deep-earth.org/wiki_cider/images/c/c2/… Nov 11 '14 at 13:12

Depiction of global carbon in gigatons (Billions of tons)

Origin

• Thanks, would you mind giving a reference? Feb 7 at 18:50
• researchgate.net/figure/… Feb 8 at 21:32