Rapid response of silicate weathering rates to climate change in the Himalaya

A. Dosseto, N. Vigier, R. Joannes-Boyau, I. Moffat, T. Singh and P. Srivastava

Abstract

Chemical weathering of continental rocks plays a central role in regulating the carbon cycle and the Earth’s climate (Walker et al., 1981; Berner et al., 1983), accounting for nearly half the consumption of atmospheric carbon dioxide globally (Beaulieu et al., 2012). However, the role of climate variability on chemical weathering is still strongly debated. Here we focus on the Himalayan range and use the lithium isotopic composition of clays in fluvial terraces to show a tight coupling between climate change and chemical weathering over the past 40 ka. Between 25 and 10 ka ago, weathering rates decrease despite temperature increase and monsoon intensification. This suggests that at this timescale, temperature plays a secondary role on chemical weathering compared to runoff and physical erosion, which inhibit weathering by accelerating sediment transport and act as fundamental controls in determining the feedback between chemical weathering and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide.

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