Considerable debate revolves around the relative importance of rock type, tectonics, and climate in creating the architecture of the critical zone. We demonstrate the importance of climate and in particular the rate of water recharge to the subsurface, using numerical models that incorporate hydrologic flowpaths, chemical weathering, and geomorphic rules for soil production and transport. We track alterations in both solid phase (plagioclase to clay) and water chemistry along hydrologic flowpaths that include lateral flow beneath the water table. To isolate the role of recharge, we simulate dry and wet cases and prescribe identical landscape evolution rules. The weathering patterns that develop differ dramatically beneath the resulting parabolic interfluves. In the dry case, incomplete weathering is shallow and surface parallel, whereas in the wet case, intense weathering occurs to depths approximating the base of the bounding channels, well below the water table. Exploration of intermediate cases reveals that the weathering state of the subsurface is strongly governed by the ratio of the rate of advance of the weathering front itself controlled by the water input rate, and the rate of erosion of the landscape. The system transitions between these end‐member behaviours rather abruptly at a weathering front speed ‐ erosion rate ratio of approximately 1. Although there are undoubtedly direct roles for tectonics and rock type in critical zone architecture, and yet more likely feedbacks between these and climate, we show here that differences in hillslope‐scale weathering patterns can be strongly controlled by climate.
Anderson, R. S., Rajaram, H., Anderson, S. P. (2018): Climate driven coevolution of weathering profiles and hillslope topography generates dramatic differences in critical zone architecture. Hydrological Processes . 2018;1 – 16.. DOI: 10.1002/hyp.13307