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Arc-continent collisions in the tropics set Earth’s climate state

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Science  14 Mar 2019:
eaav5300
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav5300

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Abstract

On multi-million-year timescales, Earth has experienced warm ice-free and cold glacial climates, but it is unknown if transitions between these background climate states were the result of changes in CO2 sources or sinks. Low-latitude arc-continent collisions are hypothesized to drive cooling by uplifting and eroding mafic and ultramafic rocks in the warm, wet tropics, thereby increasing Earth’s potential to sequester carbon through chemical weathering. To better constrain global weatherability through time, the paleogeographic position of all major Phanerozoic arc-continent collisions was reconstructed and compared to the latitudinal distribution of ice-sheets. This analysis reveals a strong correlation between the extent of glaciation and arc-continent collisions in the tropics. Earth’s climate state is set primarily by global weatherability, which changes with the latitudinal distribution of arc-continent collisions.

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