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Published on Oct 15, 2009
Carbon is all around us. This unique atom is the basic building block of life, and its compounds form solids, liquids, or gases. Carbon helps form the bodies of living organisms; it dissolves in the ocean; mixes in the atmosphere; and can be stored in the crust of the planet. A carbon atom could spend millions of years moving through this complex cycle. The ocean plays the most critical role in regulating Earth's carbon balance, and understanding how the carbon cycle is changing is key to understanding Earth's changing climate.