FSU research: Chemical weathering could alleviate some climate change effects

From Eurkealert

Public Release: 1-Aug-2017

FSU research: Chemical weathering could alleviate some climate change effects

Florida State University

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — There could be some good news on the horizon as scientists try to understand the effects and processes related to climate change.

A team of Florida State University scientists has discovered that chemical weathering, a process in which carbon dioxide breaks down rocks and then gets trapped in sediment, can happen at a much faster rate than scientists previously assumed and could potentially counteract some of the current and future climate change caused by humans.

The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Scientists have generally thought that this process takes hundreds of thousands to millions of years to occur, helping to alleviate warming trends at an exceptionally slow rate.

Rather than potentially millions of years, FSU researchers now suggest it can take several tens of thousands of years.

It’s not a quick fix though.

“Increased chemical weathering is one of Earth’s natural responses to carbon dioxide increases,” said Theodore Them, the lead researcher on the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at Florida State and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. “The good news is that this process can help balance the effects of fossil fuel combustion, deforestation and agricultural practices. The bad news is that it will not begin to counteract the excessive amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide that humans are emitting for at least several thousand years.”

As atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increase, the climate gets warmer. The warmer climate speeds up chemical weathering, which consumes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigates the greenhouse effect, thus leading to a climate cooling.

To conduct the study, the research team determined the rate at which rocks were chemically broken down over a period of rapid warming in the Early Jurassic Epoch called the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event, an interval where a major extinction event occurred about 183 million years ago.

Working with colleagues at Durham University in the United Kingdom and using state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation within the National MagLab’s Geochemistry Group, the researchers processed and measured the trace elements of their rock samples.

“We noticed that, although chemical weathering increased significantly during this time interval, it was not as large as previously hypothesized for this event,” Them said. “What’s really striking, however, is the planet’s ability to respond to these environmental changes on such short timescales.”

This increased chemical weathering process could have another downside.

The researchers’ findings suggest that widespread oxygen-deficient oceans occurred because an excess of nutrients from the breakdown of rocks flowed into the oceans during the Early Jurassic Period.

The researchers predict that future changes in climate and weather patterns due to a warming planet will create more precipitation and increase the amount of river water and nutrients transported to coastal regions. This is expected to increase both the size and duration of future coastal ocean deoxygenation, negatively impacting sea life in those areas.

“Understanding ancient climatic change like this helps us anticipate the timing, implications, and environmental response to better predict future climate scenarios,” said FSU Assistant Professor of Geology Jeremy Owens, a co-author on the paper.


Other authors on the paper include Benjamin Gill from Virginia Tech, David Selby and Darren Gröcke from Durham University and Richard Friedman from University of British Columbia.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

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August 2, 2017 8:13 pm

Haven’t they heard? The Science is settled! Further research is futile. (\sarc)

Reply to  ntesdorf
August 3, 2017 12:27 am

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/exxon-knew-about-climate-change-almost-40-years-ago/ I agree, seems like even Exxon realised it 40 years ago, ooooops!

Reply to  Steve
August 3, 2017 7:04 am

It really is fascinating how trolls actually believe that if they wait a few months between telling of their lies, that the rest of us will forget.
Exxon acknowledged that there was a chance. Which is far from the claim you are trying to make.
Exxon also released their research to the public 40 years ago.

Alan McIntire
Reply to  Steve
August 3, 2017 7:43 am

If EXXON “Knew” it 40 years ago, it would be because the results could be deduced by NON climate scientists. Why waste ANY money training “climate scientists”, when geologists can figure out all we need to know.
There’s ALSO the problem of just how a corporation, made up of thousands of individuals, each of which would have different views on anything not directly related to helping their company, have a common “knowledge” of anything?
Sort of like saying “All Democrat primary voters were in on the rigging of the Democratic Primaries to favor Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders”

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Steve
August 3, 2017 4:36 pm

I think that it would be more accurate (but not as self serving) to say that some within Exxon were aware of the possibility, but had little proof and certainly no reliable quantitative answers, because even 40 years later there is still contention about the magnitude of any anthropogenic warming. This, despite the claim that the “science is settled.”

August 2, 2017 8:20 pm

“… assumes and could potentially counteract some of the current and future change caused by humans.”
What current and future change?
A few tenths of a degree or increased agricultural productivity?

John F. Hultquist
August 2, 2017 8:21 pm

… Scientists have generally thought that this process takes hundreds of thousands to millions of years to occur, …
Bull puppy! Walk into the cemetery where your great grandparents are lodged under a granite headstone. Slate weathers a lot slower.
Where it is warm and wet the crystals in granites and related rocks weather easily.

Dr K.A. Rodgers
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
August 2, 2017 8:40 pm

As seen in many a modern roadside cut.
But , even more so, go back to the 18th century and James Hutton and the problem of the soil. The beginnings of modern geology are unfortunately a closed book to too many of the current practitioners.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Dr K.A. Rodgers
August 3, 2017 9:58 am

Stephen Gould’s “Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle” (1987) uses James Hutton’s Theory of the Earth (1795) as 1 of 3 books for his discussion.
Well worth the price, many now under $10.

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
August 3, 2017 4:40 am

J Hultquist, “Slate weathers a lot slower.”
question, is that why slate was used for home roofs?

Reply to  Ej
August 3, 2017 5:14 am

“J Hultquist, “Slate weathers a lot slower.”
question, is that why slate was used for home roofs?”
No…nothing to do with weathering.
Granite doesn’t split very easily
A granite roof would be a bit chunky

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Ej
August 3, 2017 9:47 am

Slate was used for early table tops in chemistry labs for its properties of this sort.
Note, also, that if you set a wine glass with a wine-wet bottom on a marble side-table you will get a nice ring of erosion on the surface. This, then, requires a polishing of the surface to remove it. Don’t ask me how I know.
Ad line: a DuPont advertising slogan, “Better Things for Better Living…Through Chemistry.”

Reply to  Ej
August 3, 2017 10:54 am

I won’t ask how you know. But, how many times have you had to polish out the ring(s)?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
August 3, 2017 4:39 pm

Yes, and there have been studies showing how different kinds of headstones weather within hundreds of years, in different climates, to the extent that many older tombstones have become illegible. Are we re-inventing the wheel?

August 2, 2017 8:45 pm

“potentially counteract some of the current and future climate change caused by humans”
No evidence of “climate change caused by humans”

August 2, 2017 8:49 pm

Not to address the authors in particular, but it appears that academics are leaving no stone unturned [mandatory schist joke goes here] to drag AGW into their papers, count angels on the point of a pin, split hairs, etc., and weld farts to cardboard. This will all vaporize, someday, when the world returns to sanity.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  jorgekafkazar
August 3, 2017 4:53 am

No stone unturned, or …… no tern unstoned?comment image

Bill Powers
Reply to  jorgekafkazar
August 3, 2017 10:52 am

There Is too much government money in insanity to make the return journey. Until the collapse comes, the world societies will continue this mind altered trek.

Reply to  Bill Powers
August 3, 2017 8:30 pm

@ bill Powers: “….mind altered trek.” or is that “drek”?

Roger Dewhurst
August 2, 2017 8:55 pm

Just look at the weathering, soil formation and growth of vegetation on Mt Tarawera, NZ, which erupted in the late 1800s. Tens of thousands of years? Bullshit, hundreds of years.

August 2, 2017 9:25 pm

As atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increase, the climate gets warmer.
It’s the other way round.

Reply to  petermue
August 2, 2017 11:12 pm

They are assuming that CO2 is the control knob.

… chemical weathering, a process in which carbon dioxide breaks down rocks and then gets trapped in sediment …

I didn’t have to read more.

Reply to  commieBob
August 3, 2017 12:30 am

Do you have any science that says the control knob is not CO2? I would love to refer to it for future discussions.

Reply to  commieBob
August 3, 2017 5:15 am

Steve, do you have any science, that it is? I mean a science without coulds, woulds, mays?
CO2 is rising despite an almost 20 year pause in warming.
My sane mind tells me, there can’t be any connection at all.
Temperature calculations with models on highly uncertain data do one more thing.
CO2 is the effect of rising temperatures, not the cause.
Think logically.

Reply to  commieBob
August 3, 2017 7:07 am

Steve, how about the fact that millions of years ago, the CO2 levels were 10 times what they are today, and temperatures were at times little bit higher and a lot lower than they are today.
If CO2 was the control knob, then temperatures would have been a lot higher and stayed there.

Reply to  commieBob
August 3, 2017 7:08 am

cB, that carbonic acid in water reacts with granite has been known for a long time.
The raising of the Himalayas is one of the reasons why CO2 levels dropped to their current lows.

Reply to  commieBob
August 3, 2017 7:39 am

Do you have any science that says the control knob is not CO2?…..
nope…..and just shows how ignorant we are about it all

Reply to  Latitude
August 3, 2017 9:41 am

There is no “control knob”. There is no one single thing that “controls” planetary climate. That activists on the left use such deceptive terms merely shows how desperate they are to perpetuate their lies.

Reply to  commieBob
August 3, 2017 8:34 pm

August 3, 2017 at 7:08 am says: Remember Mt Everest is marine limestone.

Non Nomen
Reply to  petermue
August 3, 2017 8:09 am

Warmer is better, which way round doesn’t really matter.

August 2, 2017 9:25 pm

With a half-life of about 5 years, weathering has little effect on CO2, which is much more dynamic. People who refuse to look at the impotency of CO2 on warming the planet are insisting on looking for effects on CO2 in the environment.
Another study several years ago tried to claim that Himalayan mountain building episodes exposed enough fresh rock to soak up the Earth’s CO2 by weathering. Over the long term, that might be true but, as the oceans partition CO2 50 to 1 with the atmosphere, ocean temperatures are the most critical, being a planetary pop bottle.

Reply to  higley7
August 3, 2017 7:10 am

That the oceans store lots of CO2 is not proof that granite does not weather out CO2.
As CO2 levels in the atmosphere drop, to maintain equilibrium, some of the CO2 in the oceans come out.
Some of that CO2 gets weathered out, lather, rinse, repeat.

August 2, 2017 10:02 pm

To be honest and quite blunt, climate control is not something we should be fucking with because it is obvious we don’t understand it well and we certainly cannot contribute a natural impact on climate change no matter how noble we are.

August 2, 2017 10:05 pm

“Rather than potentially millions of years, FSU researchers now suggest it can take several tens of thousands of years.”
Whooboy, a whole couple orders of magnitude? Lunch money in the human understanding deficit @ weathering.
Never forget that we are apes. Our brains conflate. That is, our brains create imaginary information when we have none.

August 2, 2017 11:38 pm

Rain drops are slightly acid from dissolved CO2 and NOx, react nicely with the soil, rocks, etc., continuously releasing nutrients for plants and weathering the rocks. This is nothing new!

Reply to  prcgoard
August 3, 2017 7:11 am

I’ve wondered if the higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are going to affect stalactite formation in caves.

Reply to  MarkW
August 3, 2017 10:55 am

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: We don’t know how or if it’ll even be perceptible.
I imagine it’ll hinge on the rate of evaporation within the cave. Water seeping down to the cave system would collect more dissolved solids if it were more acidic, but whether that translates to stalactites growing faster, stalagmites growing faster, or either of them shrinking would depend on how saturated the water is when it reaches the cave and where it is when it evaporates. To many case-by-case variables to call.

August 2, 2017 11:40 pm

Who would have thought.
Something else we didn’t understand about CO2 and the climate.
How much more don’t we know?

Reply to  HotScot
August 3, 2017 11:15 am

We don’t know how much sooner it will ll take for Lincolns nose to disappear from Mt. Rushmore, given the massive increase in human added atmospheric CO2.
Literal erosion of our heritage … plain and simple. Exxon knew. Their attempt to erase Lincoln from history started 40 years ago and unless we stop them our great great grandchildren won’t know about Abe’s 30 mile walk to return the two pennies that were mistakenly given to him.

Moderately Cross of East Anglia.
August 2, 2017 11:55 pm

So about the same timescale as development of commercial scale battery power storage then? What’s not to like?

August 3, 2017 12:14 am

“It’s not a quick fix….”
I don’t think we need a “fix”

Peta from Cumbria, now Newark
August 3, 2017 1:14 am

How can they get it so wrong?
They have started with the belief that cold objects radiate heat into and hence cause a temperature rise in a warmer object. In that ‘universe’, the sun orbits Earth, Neptune orbits the Moon, everyone knows what the square root of minus one is and faster than light travel is The Norm’.
They are in a dream world.
Bless them though, they have actually caught sight of Neptune and are almost on to something and it’s what I’ve been raving about since I first ever posted anything here. Dirt.
My ‘Climate Solution’.
1. Get yourself an old volcano (or mountain, large hill or any other unsightly pile of rock)
2. Optionally starting at the top, cut chunks off it and grind them up. Use windmills or sunshine panels if you so desire,
3. Deliver the pulverised rock to some-place, any-place that might be described as ‘desert like’. Anywhere and any size from your own back yard to most of Australia.
4. By whatever means, agricultural machinery up to the task already exists, spread the stuff around. If things are really dry at your chosen place, maybe think about watering it in.
5. Watch and wait
Any and all rain is acidic thanks to CO2 (about pH 5.5)
It will ‘attack’ your pulverised rock and release (make water-soluble) most/all the nutrients that plants need.
Do not worry and do not be impatient.
The plants will find those nutrients. If they never possessed that ability, we would not be here now talking about it.
They will absorb atmospheric CO2, live, flower, set seed and die. Assuming that not too many humans come along and burn/eat them first.
The dead plants will fall into the soil/ground/dirt. Being composed throughout their every fibre of one carbon atom attached to one water molecule and with water being water, the water within them will attract and bind more water (rainfall, dew, mist, fog, ANY water. It is very sticky stuff.
And because, surprise surprise, THE most important determinant of what Climate is, is the amount of water (not temperature, it comes 2nd) in any given environment, the climate will change.
With any luck and a big enough vision of the ‘rock grinders’, within 100 years It will go from desert to rainforest.
And to keep it that way, all it wants is the topping up, every 25 years or so, with a little bit more ground up rock, some soot or smoke and a tiny bit of soluble nitrogen.
Hang on, doesn’t Mother Nature do that. What are dust storms about and lightening induced forest fires all about?
Dust is dust is mineral goodness being scattered around, soot is the original Bio-char and the burning of anything makes soluble nitrogen.
What Is Not To Like.
Think I may go and invent The Wheel later today 😀

Peta from Cumbria, now Newark
Reply to  Peta from Cumbria, now Newark
August 3, 2017 1:20 am

and don’t anybody go showing my new wheel to those Florida folks.
They are but children and need protection from huge big complicated things lest their heads will explode.
Oh wait, we’ve seen that before have we not……………

Reply to  Peta from Cumbria, now Newark
August 3, 2017 7:12 am

If the “cold” object is warmer than what it covered over, then the warm object will receive more radiation from it’s environment, which will cause it to warm.

August 3, 2017 4:21 am

And with these five words they undermine anything useful they may have done,” climate change caused by humans.”. Thanks for playing, here is your Participation Trophy, now just walk away.

August 3, 2017 4:26 am

Off topic : has anyone seen any estimates of the increased CO2 sequestering due to the increased vegetation caused by the increased atmospheric CO2 levels? Thought just dawned on me and I can’t remember ever seeing mention of this obvious effect from increased CO2. I know they are searching the oceans trying to find that “missing CO2”

Reply to  arthur4563
August 3, 2017 6:20 am

Arthur? Is that you at that Al Gore:TheGoreacle’s press conference asking these inconvenient questions?

August 3, 2017 4:32 am

Ya think? CO2-saturated rain is acidic. Many minerals contain sodium, potassium, calcium, and/or magnesium, and are alkaline.

August 3, 2017 5:32 am

Deforestation? Huh? Is there a proposal to plant trees on the Skeleton Coast? Is that imaginary green stuff that’s invading the Sahara? What deforestation? It’s so clogged with trees around here that mere sparklers for the 4th of July are a problem, even if you have a water bucket handy. The tree damage to homes from extreme windstorms (microbursts, not tornadoes) is getting worse every summer.
WHAT DEFORESTATION? If you want to have an outdoor bonfire, it has to be in a container such as a walled burn pit, you have to have a burn permit, and you have to notify the fire department as to when, where you are, and how many people will be there. This is not a joke. I used to wonder why my brothre has a tin roof on his house. Well, it’s surrounded by fire fuel. We’re not allowed to burn leaves, so I mulch them with the mower and rake them over my lawn. I have never had to use commercial fertilizers because I do that.
This is becoming more and more ridiculous panic-ridden twaddle operating under the pseudonym ‘science’. If there IS a backlash coming from it, isn’t there? Yeah, and it won’t be pretty.

Reply to  RockDoc
August 3, 2017 12:12 pm

My late father in law was a UN forester.
The term ‘illegal loggers’ is relative to what world you live in, the wealthy west concerned for the climate, or in a developing country concerned for your families immediate future.
‘Illegal loggers’ provide cities with the timber they need for fuel, because they have no access to cheap fossil fuel derived energy. Areas of rainforest are felled and farmers follow. Three years later the soil is barren because they have no access to commercial fertilisers, because it’s dependent on energy, derived from fossil fuels.
So farmers follow the loggers, who are answering a local need for fuel, and so on.
Slashing and burning is more widespread in rural communities where the demand for logging isn’t as great, so the trees are burned, which fertilises the soil with nutrients from the burned vegetation, and the soil is more fertile, for a short period. But with no commercially available fertilisers, they are forced to move on and slash and burn more, just to make a living.
I’ll leave you to figure out the solution.

Reply to  Sara
August 3, 2017 3:36 pm

Many years ago(late ’60s,US) I learned in Social Studies class about slash&burn farming in South and Central America, how every few years entire villages would uproot themselves and move to a new area because their crops had begun to fail. Slash&burn new fields, plant crops, etc etc. Also learned the abandoned fields would be retaken by the forest, first as brush, then as intermediate tree growth, then as single canopy forest, then as double canopy as different species of trees grew underneath the older, taller trees. Funny part? My son went through school beginning in 2000. All through elementary and junior high I could find no references AT ALL to this. Nothing. Just evil humans are destroying rainforestblahblahblahblahblah. And leftists are amazed and wounded that people who actually know something about human history view them with contempt, suspicion and derision. Self delusion, far more destructive than paranoia.

August 3, 2017 6:15 am

Chemical weathering is what has eventually, over earth’s long history, brought CO2 down to the near starvation levels we see during the current glacial periods.

Reply to  beng135
August 3, 2017 9:11 am

Probably not. It is primarily biological sequetration in fossil fuels and carbonate rocks (mainly calcium carbonates), the latter purely an oceanic phenomenon by single photosynthetic cell shell formers like foraminifera and coccolythophorids. What weathering does do is provide calcium via primariy calcium chloride from igneous andesic rock to the ocean, secondarily by weathering exposed carbonate rocks.

Reply to  ristvan
August 3, 2017 12:22 pm

As a layman, can I have a stab at deciphering what you posted?
Humankind is currently releasing naturally, but accidentally sequestered CO2 back into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. It didn’t start off as fossil fuel, it started off as atmospheric CO2. That’s about the best I can do.
However, it seems most extraordinarily coincidental that just as the planet hit rock bottom levels of CO2, man happened along and discovered fire, then fossil fuels, which are incredibly efficient sources of energy.
If I were a religious man, I would call that miraculous, but I’m not, I just think its an amazing coincidence.
Sorry for repeating myself, I have posted this before.

August 3, 2017 6:44 am

After perusing this thread, it is apparent that the overwhelming majority of posters has not actually read the paper.

August 3, 2017 7:40 am

Love it….FSU discovers a process that’s been going on all along….and changes nothing

Non Nomen
August 3, 2017 8:04 am

Tinkering with a self-regulating system is most dangerous. Hands off!

Reply to  Non Nomen
August 3, 2017 12:30 pm

Non Nomen
Whilst I understand what you’re saying, and I agree with you, man has been unintentionally tinkering with our self regulating climate system since we evolved.
However, two wrongs don’t make a right. Buggering about with it deliberately now, we’re on a hiding to nothing.

Non Nomen
Reply to  HotScot
August 4, 2017 5:27 am

These manipulations are not intended to happen unintentionally, but deliberately. If a volcano erupts or not is entirely out of the influence of mankind -as far as I can see. If you pump chemicals into the atmosphere, extract CO2 and pump it underground or drop silver iodide from a plane is a completely different story. The latter tinkering is wantonly negligent, unnecessary and dangerous. Therefore: keep clear of such provocative manipulations.

Reply to  Non Nomen
August 4, 2017 7:46 am

Non Nomen
The law of unintended consequences. We have been lucky that the net observed result of releasing minuscule amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere is entirely positive, and far beyond the effect humans can have, with the planet greening by 14% in 30 years. The greens screw around with that at our peril.

Non Nomen
Reply to  HotScot
August 4, 2017 1:49 pm

@ HotScot August 4, 2017 at 7:46 am

The law of unintended consequences. … The greens screw around with that at our peril.

I fully second that. The greens want us to live a life far beyond the necessities of a “fair use” of our ressources. Minimize and shutdown of industry and ambling around in sheepskin isn’t the life a supposed majority of people wants to live. Clean water, clean air, no littering and no disposal of toxic waste is perfectly ok, but back to the times of pre-stone age? No, thanks.

Bill Powers
August 3, 2017 11:00 am

Whenever I read stories like this I am reminded of the old joke, that I first saw acted out on the Andy Griffin show. Andy returns to the jail to find Barney laying newspaper down over the furniture. Andy inquires as to why. Barney answers “to keep the Elephants away.” Andy says “Barney there are no elephants in Mayberry” and Barney replies “see it’s working!”
When global warming doesn’t kill us these government funded quack scientists are going to have an explanation as to how they saved us from ourselves. We seeded the clouds and sequestered the carbon into the rocks. Just look out for unintended consequences. They will bit you in the arse every time.

Reply to  Bill Powers
August 3, 2017 11:08 am

Very bad analogy related in no way to the work our scientists conduct on a daily basis.

Reply to  RockDoc
August 3, 2017 12:25 pm

An excellent analysis by Bill Powers and an insightful overview of idiotic groupthink in the scientific community.

Reply to  Bill Powers
August 3, 2017 12:32 pm

Andy Griffith

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Bill Powers
August 3, 2017 4:49 pm

And there is another old joke about the drunk hanging on a light pole blowing a whistle. He tells the cop accosting him that he is keeping the pink elephants away.

August 3, 2017 2:47 pm

Is commenting closed on this thread?

Reply to  2hotel9
August 3, 2017 2:49 pm

Apparently not, why did my other comment not come through? Has wordpress got gremlins again?

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