Deep Carbon

Deep Carbon Observatory

Initiated in 2009, the Deep Carbon Observatory was a 10-year global quest to discover the quantity, movements, forms, and origins of Earth’s deep carbon; to probe the secrets of volcanoes and diamonds, sources of gas and oil, and life’s deep limits and origins; and to report the known, unknown, and unknowable by 2019.

The DCO aimed to create legacies of instruments measuring at great depths, temperatures, and pressures; networks sensing fluxes of carbon-containing gases and fluids between the depths and the surface; open access databases about deep carbon; deep carbon researchers integrating geology, physics, chemistry, and biology; insights improving energy systems; and a public more engaged with deep carbon science.

Jesse Ausubel helped the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation establish the DCO in 2009 and continued to act as Science Advisor to the Sloan Foundation in its role as lead sponsor of the DCO.

Summarizing the origin and evolution of the DCO, Jesse wrote the Foreword to the excellent history of deep carbon science, From Crust to Core, by Simon Mitton, published by Cambridge U. Press in December 2020.  

A press release summarizes some of the decadal achievements celebrated at a large conference in Washington DC, 24-26 October 2019, as does the Deep Carbon Observatory’s decadal report, a 50-page document released in October 2019.

Access the Deep Carbon Observatory website at (

Publications about Deep Carbon

RM Hazen, JH Ausubel. On the nature and significance of rarity in mineralogy (PDF). American Mineralogist vol. 101, 2016

JH Ausubel. Self-sinking capsules to investigate Earth’s interior and dispose of radioactive waste (PDF). Seminar Presentation 26 July 2011, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Program of Study in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics. 2011