Following the Carbon Cycle Carbon makes the world go around. It is the building block of life on Earth, and in the form of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere, it has a powerful impact on the planet?s climate. In the process, carbon also goes around the world and through the oceans?sometimes cycling slowly through the system (red circles) and sometimes in more actively cycling pools (yellow circles). Humans have intervened and interfered with the carbon cycle by quickly transferring carbon from slow to active pools by extracting large amounts of hydrocarbons from the Earth, burning them for fuel, and putting an excess of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
(Illustration by Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)