The null hypothesis: globally steady rates of erosion, weathering fluxes and shelf sediment accumulation during Late Cenozoic mountain uplift and glaciation

Authors

  • Jane K. Willenbring,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
    • Correspondence: Dr. Jane Kathryn Willenbring, Department of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania, 240 South 33rd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6316, USA. Tel.: +001 215 746-8197; e-mail: erosion@sas.upenn.edu

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  • Douglas J. Jerolmack

    1. Department of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
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Abstract

At the largest time and space scales, the pace of erosion and chemical weathering is determined by tectonic uplift rates. Deviations from equilibrium arise from the transient response of landscape denudation to climatic and tectonic perturbations. We posit that the constraint of mass balance, however, makes it unlikely that such disequilibrium persists at the global scale over millions of years, as has been proposed for late Cenozoic erosion. We synthesize weathering fluxes, global sedimentation rates, sediment yields and tectonic motions to show a remarkable constancy in the pace of Earth-surface evolution over the last 10 Ma and support the null hypothesis – that global rates of landscape change have remained constant over this time period, despite global climate change and mountain building events. This work undermines the hypothesis that increased weathering due to mountain building or climate change was the primary agent for a decrease in global temperatures.

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