Fluxes of mantle and subducted carbon along convergent plate boundaries

Yuji Sano, Stanley Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


The potential impact of increases in atmospheric CO2 is a topic of considerable controversy. Even though volcanic emission of CO2 may be very small as compared to anthropogenic emissions, evaluation of natural degassing of CO2 is important for any model of the geochemical C cycle and evolution of the Earth's atmosphere. We report here the mantle C flux in subduction zones based on He and C isotopes and CO2/3He ratios of high-temperature volcanic gases and medium- and low-temperature fumaroles in circum-Pacific volcanic regions. The calculated volcanic C flux of 3.1 × 1012 mol/a from subduction zones is larger than the flux of 1.5 × 1012 mol/a from mid-ocean ridges, while contributions from the mantle in subduction zone is only 0.30 × 1012 mol/a, equivalent to about 20% of the C flux in mid-ocean ridges. Since the estimated mantle C flux in hot spot regions is insignificant, 0.029 × 1012 mol/a, we propose that the global mantle C flux is 1.8 × 1012 mol/a in total. The flux, if accumulated over 4.5 billion year of geological time, amounts to 8.3 × 1021 mol which agrees well with 9 × 1021 mol of the present inventory of C at the Earth's surface. This may support a continuous degassing model of C or the idea that subducted C is recycled into the lower mantle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number96GL02260
Pages (from-to)2749-2752
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number20
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Fluxes of mantle and subducted carbon along convergent plate boundaries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this