Research Project


Quantifying the link between weathering and past CO2 levels



Featured Research Output


For the first time, we have used cave stalagmites to examine changes in weathering across recent glacial-interglacial time periods. Using lithium isotopes, we find dramatic changes in weathering and CO2 drawdown, which becomes significantly more efficient during the warmer interglacials than in the colder glacials. In fact, the weathering efficiency directly correlates with temperature, providing some of the first direct evidence that weathering is temperature-controlled. 

Pogge von Strandmann, P.A.E., Vaks, A., Bar-Matthews, M., Ayalon, A., Jacob, E., Henderson G.M., Lithium isotopes in speleothems: Temperature-controlled variation in silicate weathering during glacial cycles, 2017, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 469: 64–74.

Project Info

The only evidence we can ever get of how the Earth responds to climate system change comes from examining past periods of climate warming and cooling. This has occurred many times throughout Earth history – and each time it did, it triggered a mass extinction. 

One of the key pieces of evidence we can gain is through what processes and how quickly the climate recovered from its perturbation. This largely occurs through chemical weathering of rocks, which removes CO2 (link to other pages). 

This project is examining several key rapid climate change events that occurred during the past 55 million years, as well as more recent ice ages. Several of these are used as analogies of current and future anthropogenic climate warming. We are examining marine and continental carbonates that store an archive of chemistry we can exploit to understand of the Earth system responded and recovered.



Universities: UCL, Birkbeck

Principal Researcher: Philip Pogge von Strandmann


Iceland 2017 – This time, our fieldwork involved involved use of Iceland’s extensive river flow gauges

Yorkshire Caves 2019 – a speleothem (stalagmite) sampling trip from caves in Yorkshire



Primarily, this project is using lithium isotopes to determine past weathering processes. We are measuring these in carbonate (limestone) rocks from several different time periods. We will also use calcium and magnesium isotopes from the same rocks to provide further constraints on the depositional environments. 


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Research Output

  • 90% Data collected
  • 60% collaborations
  • 20% Analysis
  • 10 Papers Published


Other Projects



Quantifying the link between weathering and past CO2 levels




Testing the link between weathering and CO2 – evidence from extreme climate events



North China craton: A unique window into Earth’s middle age