Seafloor Weathering Dependence on Temperature and Dissolved Inorganic Carbon

Wednesday, 16 December 2015: 08:15
2010 (Moscone West)
Dorian S Abbot, Navah X Farahat and David E Archer, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, United States
Most thinking on Earth's carbon cycle implicates silicate weathering as the dominant control of atmospheric CO2 concentration over long timescales. Recent analyses of alteration of basalt at the seafloor, however, suggest that seafloor weathering (low-temperature (<60C) chemical alteration of the upper oceanic crust due to hydrothermal seawater circulation) increases dramatically in warm, high CO2 periods of Earth's history. This raises the possibility that seafloor weathering could complement silicate weathering in maintaining Earth's long term climate stability. Moreover, seafloor weathering would be the only type of weathering available on an exoplanet entirely covered by water, so understanding how it might work is essential for understanding the habitable zones of such waterworlds.

We have built a 2D numerical model of the flow of seawater through porous basalt coupled to chemical alteration reactions that can calculate alkalinity fluxes and carbonate deposition (seafloor weathering). I will present simulations in which we vary the seawater temperature and dissolved inorganic carbon concentration, which are boundary conditions to our model, over large ranges. These results will provide a constraint on the ability of seafloor weathering to act as an effective climate buffer on Earth and other planets. I can't give you a preview of the results yet because at the time of writing this abstract we haven't completed the simulations!