Temperature dependence of silicate weathering in nature: How strong a negative feedback on long-term accumulation of atmospheric CO2 and global greenhouse warming?
Estimation of the temperature dependence of natural feldspar weathering in two catchments at different elevations yields an apparent Arrhenius activation energy of 18.4 kcal/mol (77.0 kJ/mol), much higher than most laboratory values. This finding supports recent suggestions that hydrolytic weathering of silicate minerals may consume carbonic acid and thereby remove atmospheric carbon dioxide more rapidly with increasing temperature than previously thought. This result provides a stronger negative feedback on long-term greenhouse warming than has been assumed in most models of global carbon cycling. The present estimate was determined from the ratio of feldspar weathering rates (determined by geochemical mass balance) in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, United States. Temperature (a function of elevation) is the only factor that differs between the two catchments; parent rock type, aspect, hillslope hydrology, and vegetation type and successional stage are the same in both.