Temperature dependence of basalt weathering

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The homeostatic balance of Earth's long-term carbon cycle and the equable state of Earth's climate are maintained by negative feedbacks between the levels of atmospheric CO2 and the chemical weathering rate of silicate rocks. Though clearly demonstrated by well-controlled laboratory dissolution experiments, the temperature dependence of silicate weathering rates, hypothesized to play a central role in these weathering feedbacks, has been difficult to quantify clearly in natural settings at landscape scale. By compiling data from basaltic catchments worldwide and considering only inactive volcanic fields (IVFs), here we show that the rate of CO2 consumption associated with the weathering of basaltic rocks is strongly correlated with mean annual temperature (MAT) as predicted by chemical kinetics. Relations between temperature and CO2 consumption rate for active volcanic fields (AVFs) are complicated by other factors such as eruption age, hydrothermal activity, and hydrological complexities. On the basis of this updated data compilation we are not able to distinguish whether or not there is a significant runoff control on basalt weathering rates. Nonetheless, the simple temperature control as observed in this global dataset implies that basalt weathering could be an effective mechanism for Earth to modulate long-term carbon cycle perturbations.




Li, G., Hartmann, J., Derry, L. A., West, A. J., You, C. F., Long, X., … Chen, J. (2016). Temperature dependence of basalt weathering. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 443, 59–69. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2016.03.015

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