American Geophysical Union
Journal of Geophysical Research. Earth Surface
Chemical weathering is one of the major processes interacting with climate and tectonics to form clays, supply nutrients to soil microorganisms and plants, and sequester atmospheric CO2. Hydrology and dissolution kinetics have been emphasized as factors controlling chemical weathering rates. However, the interaction between hydrology and transport of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in controlling weathering has received less attention. In this paper, we present an analytical model that couples subsurface water and chemical molar balance equations to analyze the roles of hydrology and DIC transport on chemical weathering. The balance equations form a dynamical system that fully determines the dynamics of the weathering zone chemistry as forced by the transport of DIC. The model is formulated specifically for the silicate mineral albite, but it can be extended to other minerals, and is studied as a function of percolation rate and water transit time. Three weathering regimes are elucidated. For very small or large values of transit time, the weathering is limited by reaction kinetics or transport, respectively. For intermediate values, the system is transport controlled and is sensitive to transit time. We apply the model to a series of watersheds for which we estimate transit times and identify the type of weathering regime. The results suggest that hydrologic transport of DIC may be as important as reaction kinetics and dilution in determining chemical weathering rates.