SCIENCE: Continental Arc Volcanism driving greenhouse-icehouse variability

Continental arc volcanism as the principal driver of icehouse-greenhouse variability

N. Ryan McKenzie, Brian K. Horton, Shannon E. Loomis, Daniel F. Stockli, Noah J. Planavsky,Cin-Ty A. Lee

Science  22 Apr 2016: Vol. 352, Issue 6284, pp. 444-447, DOI: 10.1126/science.aad5787
Variations in continental volcanic arc emissions have the potential to control atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and climate change on multimillion-year time scales. Here we present a compilation of ~120,000 detrital zircon uranium-lead (U-Pb) ages from global sedimentary deposits as a proxy to track the spatial distribution of continental magmatic arc systems from the Cryogenian period to the present. These data demonstrate a direct relationship between global arc activity and major climate shifts: Widespread continental arcs correspond with prominent early Paleozoic and Mesozoic greenhouse climates, whereas reduced continental arc activity corresponds with icehouse climates of the Cryogenian, Late Ordovician, late Paleozoic, and Cenozoic. This persistent coupled behavior provides evidence that continental volcanic outgassing drove long-term shifts in atmospheric CO2 levels over the past ~720 million years.
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