OROGRAPHY-DRIVEN CHEMICAL DENUDATION IN THE LESSER ANTILLES: EVIDENCE FOR A NEW FEED-BACK MECHANISM STABILIZING ATMOSPHERIC CO2 | INSTITUT DE PHYSIQUE DU GLOBE DE PARIS

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  OROGRAPHY-DRIVEN CHEMICAL DENUDATION IN THE LESSER ANTILLES: EVIDENCE FOR A NEW FEED-BACK MECHANISM STABILIZING ATMOSPHERIC CO2

Type de publication:

Journal Article

Source:

American Journal of Science, Volume 311, Ticket 10 (2011)

ISBN:

0002-9599

Numéro d'accès:

WOS:000302271300002

URL:

http://www.ajsonline.org/content/311/10/851

Mots-clés:

UMR 7154 ; Géochimie et Cosmochimie

Résumé:

<p>In this paper we present chemical composition data for major elements in rivers from three islands of the Lesser Antilles. The Lesser Antilles are a tropical volcanic subduction arc and are characterized by steep gradients of relief, bedrock age and precipitation. They constitute a natural laboratory where the response of the weathering engine to large variations of runoff can be understood. Data indicate that the Lesser Antilles are characterized by extremely variable chemical weathering (40-430 t/km2/a) and CO2 consumption (300-3500.103 mol/km2/a) rates, amongst the highest found on Earth and consistent with the previous studies on the weathering of volcanic rock. A noteworthy observation is that, along the runoff gradient, concentrations of rock-derived solutes do not follow a pure dilution law and that a buffering mechanism exists stabilizing solute concentrations. As a result concentrations vary much less than runoff and chemical weathering rates are mainly controlled by runoff. Precipitation patterns in the Lesser Antilles are essentially orographic and controlled by the adiabatic decompression of the water-saturated Atlantic air masses. The production of acidity by volcanic degassing is an additional factor that modulates the runoff effect. Two main conclusions can be drawn from this study. First, chemical weathering fluxes of oceanic islands are strongly dependent upon relief repartition, which cautions the use of regional mean values to compare volcanic islands. Second, volcanic activity in the Lesser Antilles subduction arc, by creating relief, promotes high orographic precipitation and/or infiltration regimes, that in turn results in elevated chemical weathering and atmospheric CO2 consumption fluxes. This feedback mechanism, implying mainly precipitation and relief, is proposed to act in complement to the temperature-related feedback proposed by previous authors for stabilizing the atmospheric CO2 content of the atmosphere in response to volcanic CO2 degassing. This study highlights the importance of the water cycle in controlling chemical weathering of volcanic arc islands and associated CO2 consumption rates.</p>

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