Was the Late Paleocene-Early Eocene Hot Because Earth Was Flat? An Ocean Lithium Isotope View of Mountain Building, Continental Weathering, Carbon Dioxide, and Earth's Cenozoic Clima

Froelich, Flip and Misra, Sambuddha (2014) Was the Late Paleocene-Early Eocene Hot Because Earth Was Flat? An Ocean Lithium Isotope View of Mountain Building, Continental Weathering, Carbon Dioxide, and Earth's Cenozoic Clima. Oceanography, 27 (1). pp. 36-49. ISSN ISSN: 1042-8275 DOI 10.5670/oceanog.2014.06

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Abstract

Hothouse climates in Earth’s geologic past, such as the Eocene epoch, are thought to have been caused by the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide and/or methane, which had been stored as carbon in biogenic gases and organic matter in sediments, to the ocean-atmosphere system. However, to avoid runaway temperatures, there must be long-term negative feedbacks that consume CO 2 on time scales longer than the ~ 100,000 years generally ascribed to ocean uptake of CO 2 and burial of marine organic carbon. Here, we argue that continental chemical weathering of silicate rocks, the ultimate long-term (multi-million year) sink for CO 2 , must have been almost dormant during the late Paleocene and early Eocene, allowing buildup of atmospheric CO 2 to levels exceeding 1,000 ppm. This reduction in the strength of the CO 2 sink was the result of minimal global tectonic uplift of silicate rocks that did not produce mountains susceptible to physical and chemical weathering, an inversion of the Uplift-Weathering Hypothesis. There is lack of terrestrial evidence for absence of uplift; however, the δ 7 Li chemistry of the Paleogene ocean indicates that continental relief during this period of the Early Cenozoic was one of peneplained (flat) continents characterized by high chemical weathering intensity and slow physical and chemical weathering rates, yielding low river fluxes of suspended solids, dissolved cations, and clays delivered to the sea. Only upon re-initiation of mountain building in the Oligocene-Miocene (Himalayas, Andes, Rockies) and drifting of these continental blocks to low-latitude locations near the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone and monsoonal climate belts did continental weathering take on modern characteristics of rivers with high suspended loads and incongruent weathering, with much of the cations released during weathering being sequestered into secondary clay minerals. The δ 7 Li record of the Cenozoic ocean provides another piece of circumstantial evidence in support of the Late Cenozoic Uplift-Weathering Hypothesis.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Open Access Journal
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2013AREP; IA67; OA;
Subjects: 01 - Climate Change and Earth-Ocean Atmosphere Systems
Divisions: 08 - Green Open Access
01 - Climate Change and Earth-Ocean Atmosphere Systems
Journal or Publication Title: Oceanography
Volume: 27
Page Range: pp. 36-49
Identification Number: 10.5670/oceanog.2014.06
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2014 17:38
Last Modified: 01 May 2014 21:54
URI: http://eprints.esc.cam.ac.uk/id/eprint/2999

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