[en] chemical and physical weathering ; CO2 cycle ; Earth climate ; Deccan trapps ; Himalayas ; river
[en] We detail the results of recent studies describing and quantifying the large-scale chemical weathering of the main types of continental silicate rocks: granites and basalts. These studies aim at establishing chemical weathering laws for these two lithologies, describing the dependence of chemical weathering on environmental parameters, such as climate and mechanical erosion. As shown within this contribution, such mathematical laws are of primary importance for numerical models calculating the evolution of the partial pressure of atmospheric CO2 and the Earth climate at geological timescales. The major results can be summarized as follow: (1) weathering of continental basaltic lithologies accounts for about 30% of the total consumption of atmospheric CO2 through weathering of continental silicate rocks. This is related to their high weatherability (about eight times greater than the granite weatherability); (2) a simple weathering law has been established for basaltic lithologies, giving the consumption of atmospheric CO2 as a function of regional continental runoff, and mean annual regional temperature; (3) no such simple weathering law can be proposed for granitic lithologies, since the effect of temperature can only be identified for regions displaying high continental runoff; (4) a general law relating mechanical erosion and chemical weathering has been validated on small and large catchments. The consequences of these major advances on the climatic evolution of the Earth are discussed. Particularly, the impacts of the onset of the Deccan trapps and the Himalayan orogeny on the global carbon cycle are reinvestigated. (C) 2003 Academie des sciences. Published by Elsevier SAS. All rights reserved.