Anomalous weathering trends indicate accelerated erosion of tropical basaltic landscapes during the Permo-Triassic warming

Jianghai Yang, Peter A. Cawood, Dan J. Condon, Jianzhong Liu, Xusheng Deng, Jingfu Wang, Yuansheng Du, Dongxun Yuan

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Weathering of basalt in tropical environments is sensitive to climate change and considered to play a significant role in regulating climate evolution. Though extensively studied on the modern Earth and hypothesized for the geological past, basalt weathering is difficult to directly track in geological archives. We here focus on the basaltic sediments derived from the Emeishan large igneous province (LIP) in South China and determined their organic carbon content and isotope, mineral and geochemical compositions. Based on the newly obtained high-precision zircon U-Pb age of 251.79 ± 0.12/0.13/0.36 Ma, we establish temporal variations of weathering intensity for the Emeishan LIP basaltic landscapes in the tropical latitudes through the Permo-Triassic rapid climate warming periods. Analysis of weathering trends indicates a significant decrease in weathering intensity across the Permo-Triassic transition. This decrease in intensity is anomalous considering its coincidence with the climate warming at the Permo-Triassic transition, which tends to elevate chemical weathering rate of basalts and produce sediments with high chemical weathering intensity. Combining these weathering trends with present-day basalt weathering-temperature relationship and reported paleo-temperatures, total erosion rate is quantitatively estimated to increase from 282 ± 43 t/km2/yr in the latest Permian to > 1618 ± 187 t/km2/yr in the Early Triassic. This massive erosion in the Early Triassic is plausibly related to amplified extreme precipitation associated with intensification of the hydrological cycle in the Early Triassic hothouse climate. This study underlines the weathering responses of tropical landscapes to rapid climate warming.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117256
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Emeishan large igneous province
  • erosion
  • Permo-Triassic
  • warming
  • weathering

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