What controls weathering and long-term climate?
Direct evidence for a temperature feedback control on weathering and climate
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The concept of a reaction of weathering (the main removal process of atmospheric CO2) to climate has been shown for large climate warming and cooling events, but not for more rapid events. The relatively recent ice ages (glacial-interglacial events) provide an opportunity to study weathering during changes in temperature, pCO2, sea level and glaciation. However, we must be clear that these warming and cooling events are not initiated by CO2, but by changes in orbital parameters (and are therefore not, as climate change deniers claim, evidence for a decoupling of CO2 and temperature). Therefore, weathering on these timescales likely did not control CO2, but would have still responded to changes in temperature or other parameters. These time periods therefore allow study of half of the climate control story: how weathering responds to different parameters.
Lithium isotopes from cave carbonates (speleothems) in Israel show very clear trends, with Li isotope ratios being higher during cooler glacial periods. Palaeo-temperature measurements from the same speleothems show a direct relationship between Li isotope ratios and temperature, showing (for the first time) a direct relationship between weathering and temperature over the past few hundred thousand years.
This figure shows the changes in lithium isotope ratios from two difference Israeli caves over the past two glacial periods. We also show palaeo-temperatures, and (in the insert) the relationship between Li isotope ratio and temperature. This gives some of the first direct evidence of the relationship between temperature and weathering from the geological record.
Universities: UCL, Birkbeck
Principal Researcher: Philip Pogge von Strandmann
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