The composition and weathering of the continents over geologic time

Lipp, A.G.; Shorttle, O.; Sperling, E.; Brocks, J.J.; Cole, D.; Crockford, P.W.; Del Mouro, L.; Dewing, K.; Dornbos, S.Q.; Emmings, J.F. ORCID:; Farrell, U.C.; Jarrett, A.; Johnson, B.W.; Kabanov, P.; Keller, C.B.; Kunzmann, M.; Miller, A.J.; Mills, N.T.; O'Connell, B.; Peters, S.E.; Planavsky, N.J.; Ritzer, S.R.; Schoepfer, S.D.; Wilby, P.R.; Yang, J.. 2021 The composition and weathering of the continents over geologic time. Geochemical Perspectives Letters, 7. 21-26.

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.
Text (Open Access Paper)
Lipp_et_al_2021.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Download (2MB) | Preview


The composition of continental crust records the balance between construction by tectonics and destruction by physical and chemical erosion. Quantitative constraints on how igneous addition and chemical weathering have modified the continents’ bulk composition are essential for understanding the evolution of geodynamics and climate. Using novel data analytic techniques we have extracted temporal trends in sediments’ protolith composition and weathering intensity from the largest available compilation of sedimentary major element compositions: ∼15,000 samples from 4.0 Ga to the present. We find that the average Archean upper continental crust was silica-rich and had a similar compositional diversity to modern continents. This is consistent with an early Archean, or earlier, onset of plate tectonics. In the Archean, chemical weathering sequestered ∼25 % more CO2 per mass eroded for the same weathering intensity than in subsequent time periods, consistent with carbon mass balance despite higher Archean outgassing rates and more limited continental exposure. Since 2.0 Ga, over long (>0.5 Gyr) timescales, crustal weathering intensity has remained relatively constant. On shorter timescales over the Phanerozoic, weathering intensity is correlated to global climate state, consistent with a weathering feedback acting in response to changes in CO2 sources or sinks.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Date made live: 15 Mar 2021 09:17 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...