A framework for predicting global silicate weathering and CO2 drawdown rates over geologic time-scales

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Nov 4;105(44):16855-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0801462105. Epub 2008 Oct 24.


Global silicate weathering drives long-time-scale fluctuations in atmospheric CO(2). While tectonics, climate, and rock-type influence silicate weathering, it is unclear how these factors combine to drive global rates. Here, we explore whether local erosion rates, GCM-derived dust fluxes, temperature, and water balance can capture global variation in silicate weathering. Our spatially explicit approach predicts 1.9-4.6 x 10(13) mols of Si weathered globally per year, within a factor of 4-10 of estimates of global silicate fluxes derived from riverine measurements. Similarly, our watershed-based estimates are within a factor of 4-18 (mean of 5.3) of the silica fluxes measured in the world's ten largest rivers. Eighty percent of total global silicate weathering product traveling as dissolved load occurs within a narrow range (0.01-0.5 mm/year) of erosion rates. Assuming each mol of Mg or Ca reacts with 1 mol of CO(2), 1.5-3.3 x 10(8) tons/year of CO(2) is consumed by silicate weathering, consistent with previously published estimates. Approximately 50% of this drawdown occurs in the world's active mountain belts, emphasizing the importance of tectonic regulation of global climate over geologic timescales.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't