A transect of shale sites was established across the Northern Hemisphere as part of the Susquehanna Shale Hills Critical Zone Observatory (SSHO) to investigate the role of climate in shale weathering. Mean annual temperature and precipitation vary across sites located in Wales, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Puerto Rico. Long-term weathering rates were quantified by comparing bulk soil geochemistry with original parent shale composition and cosmogenic 10Be inventories to estimate weathering duration. Present-day weathering rates were obtained by burying approximately 2 cm by 1 cm shale chips at multiple depths in soil pit walls. Shale chip samples were exhumed after two and five years of burial, washed and mass loss measured. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) were used to determine surface chemistry and physical alteration of the recovered shale. Long-term weathering rates increase with increasing temperature across the transect. Similarly, after two years of burial, exhumed shale chip weathering rates increased from 2.9 ± 0.9 in Wales to 11.2 ± 3.7 m Ma-1 in Puerto Rico. Average weathering rates after two years of burial were similar in Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama (8.6 – 10.6 m Ma-1). Many shale chips in Alabama and Puerto Rico, however, retained soil particles even after washing, therefore total mass loss, and thus weathering rates, at these sites could be even greater. After five years of burial, mass loss across the Appalachian sites was greatest in Tennessee while weathering rates were overall generally similar to two year rates (3.0 to 12.6 m Ma-1). Evidence of physical and chemical changes, especially Na and Mg loss, from shale chip surfaces was greater on shale chips buried at warmer and wetter sites. Quantifying weathering rates as a function of climate at multiple scales will contribute to understanding the effects of global climate change on soil formation rates in the Critical Zone.
Dere, Ashlee Laura Denton, Elizabeth Andrews and Timothy S White (2015): Quantifying present-day and long-term shale weathering rates across a latitudinal climosequence. EP34A-06 Landscape Evolution from a Critical Zone Science Perspective III, presented at 2015 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, CA, 14-18 Dec..
This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.