Research ArticleCLIMATOLOGY

Reconciling atmospheric CO2, weathering, and calcite compensation depth across the Cenozoic

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Science Advances  22 Jan 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 4, eabd4876
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd4876


The Cenozoic era (66 to 0 million years) is marked by long-term aberrations in carbon cycling and large climatic shifts, some of which challenge the current understanding of carbon cycle dynamics. Here, we investigate possible mechanisms responsible for the observed long-term trends by using a novel approach that features a full-fledged ocean carbonate chemistry model. Using a compilation of pCO2, pH, and calcite compensation depth (CCD) observational evidence and a suite of simulations, we reconcile long-term Cenozoic climate and CCD trends. We show that the CCD response was decoupled from changes in silicate and carbonate weathering rates, challenging the continental uplift hypothesis. The two dominant mechanisms for decoupling are shelf-basin carbonate burial fractionation combined with proliferation of pelagic calcifiers. The temperature effect on remineralization rates of marine organic matter also plays a critical role in controlling the carbon cycle dynamics, especially during the warmer periods of the Cenozoic.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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