A silicate weathering mechanism linking increases in marine 87Sr/86Sr with global glaciation

Joel D. Blum, Yigal Erel

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

169 Scopus citations


The 87Sr/86Sr ratio of sea water is generally regarded as a proxy for the rate of chemical weathering of the continents. Interpretation of the 87Sr/86Sr record in marine limestones requires an understanding of how changes in this quantity are linked to climate and tectonic events. A connection between the strontium isotope record and the extent of global glaciation has been proposed1 –8, but without a well established mechanism. Glaciation may influence marine 87Sr/86Sr by changing global riverine Sr fluxes (that is, rock weathering rates) and/or 87Sr/86Sr ratios (that is, relative mineral weathering rates). Here we investigate how the 87Sr/86Sr release from silicate weathering is affected by glaciation, using the Sr isotope systematics of granitoid soils on alpine glacial moraines in the Wind River Range, Wyoming. We observe a negative correlation between the 87Sr/86Sr ratio of exchangeable Sr in soils and the soil age, indicating that the 87Sr/86Sr ratio of Sr released in the early stages of weathering is significantly higher than in later stages. We estimate that this mechanism can increase global riverine 87Sr/86Sr by an average of 0.0002 during periods of glacial–interglacial cycling. When superimposed on long-term trends controlled by tectonic processes2–7, 9, 10, this shift can account for the correlation between the rate of change of marine 87Sr/86Sr and the intensity of glaciation over at least the past 10 Myr.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)415-418
Number of pages4
Issue number6513
StatePublished - 2 Feb 1995


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