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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Prof. Dave Selby

Them, T.R., Gill, B. C., Selby, D., Gröcke, D.R., Friedman, R.M. & Owens, J.D. (2017). Evidence for rapid weathering response to climatic warming during the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event. Scientific Reports 7(1): 5003.

Author(s) from Durham


Chemical weathering consumes atmospheric carbon dioxide through the breakdown of silicate minerals and is thought to stabilize Earth’s long-term climate. However, the potential influence of silicate weathering on atmospheric pCO2 levels on geologically short timescales (103–105 years) remains poorly constrained. Here we focus on the record of a transient interval of severe climatic warming across the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event or T-OAE from an open ocean sedimentary succession from western North America. Paired osmium isotope data and numerical modelling results suggest that weathering rates may have increased by 215% and potentially up to 530% compared to the pre-event baseline, which would have resulted in the sequestration of significant amounts of atmospheric CO2. This process would have also led to increased delivery of nutrients to the oceans and lakes stimulating bioproductivity and leading to the subsequent development of shallow-water anoxia, the hallmark of the T-OAE. This enhanced bioproductivity and anoxia would have resulted in elevated rates of organic matter burial that would have acted as an additional negative feedback on atmospheric pCO2 levels. Therefore, the enhanced weathering modulated by initially increased pCO2 levels would have operated as both a direct and indirect negative feedback to end the T-OAE.