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Geologic cycles act as a climate control, releasing and absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide in a balance that helps keep the planet not too hot and not too cold.

Researchers from USC and Nanjing University in China have documented evidence suggesting that part of the reason that the Earth has become neither sweltering like Venus nor frigid like Mars lies with a built-in atmospheric carbon dioxide regulator - the geologic cycles that churn up the planet's rocky surface.

Scientists have long known that "fresh" rock pushed to the surface via mountain formation effectively acts as a kind of sponge, soaking up the greenhouse gas CO2. Left unchecked, however, that process would simply deplete atmospheric CO2 levels to a point that would plunge the Earth into an eternal winter within a few million years during the formation of large mountain ranges like the Himalayas - which has clearly not happened.

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