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Journal of Geochemical Exploration






We evaluate whether the global weathering budget is near steady state for the pre-anthropogenic modern environment by assessing the magnitude of acidity-generating volcanic exhalations. The weathering rate induced by volcanic acid fluxes, of which the CO2 flux is the most important, can be expressed as an average release rate of dissolved silica, based on a model feldspar-weathering scheme, and the ratio of carbonate-to-silicate rock weathering. The theoretically predicted flux of silica from chemical weathering is slightly smaller than the estimated global riverine silica flux. After adjustment for carbonate weathering, the riverine dissolved bicarbonate flux is larger than the volcanic carbon degassing rate by a factor of about three. There are substantial uncertainties associated with the calculated and observed flux values, but the modern system may either not be in steady state, or additional, ‘‘unknown’’ carbon sources may exist. The closure errors in the predicted budgets and observed riverine fluxes suggest that continental weathering rates might have had an impact on atmospheric CO2 levels at a time scale of 103-104 years, and that enhanced weathering rates during glacial periods might have been a factor in the reduced glacial atmospheric CO2 levels. Recent anthropogenic emissions of carbon and sulfur have a much larger acid-generating capacity than the natural fluxes. Estimated potential weathering budgets to neutralize these fluxes are far in excess of observed values. A theoretical scenario for a return to steady state at the current anthropogenic acidity emissions disregarding the temporary buffering action of the ocean reservoir.requires either significantly lower pH values in continental surface waters as a result of storage of strong acids, andror higher temperatures as a result of enhanced atmospheric CO2 levels in order to create weathering rates that can neutralize the total flux of anthropogenic and natural background acidity