Tectonics and climate
- Cite this article as:
- Hay, W.W. Geol Rundsch (1996) 85: 409. doi:10.1007/BF02369000
Tectonics and climate are both directly and indirectly related. The direct connection is between uplift, atmospheric circulation, and the hydrologic cycle. The indirect links are via subduction, volcanism, the introduction of gasses into the atmosphere, and through erosion and consumption of atmospheric gases by chemical weathering. Rifting of continental blocks involves broad upwarping followed by subsidence of a central valley and uplift of marginal shoulders. The result is an evolving regional climate which has been repeated many times in the Phanerozoic: first a vapor-trapping arch, followed by a rift valley with fresh-water lakes, culminating in an arid rift bordered by mountains intercepting incoming precipitation. Convergence tectonics affects climate on a larger scale. A mountain range is a barrier to atmospheric circulation, especially if perpendicular to the circulation. It also traps water vapor converting latent to sensible heat. Broad uplift results in a shorter path for both incoming and outgoing radiation resulting in seasonal climate extremes with reversals of atmospheric pressure and enhanced monsoonal circulation. Volcanism affects climate by introducing ash and aerosols into the atmosphere, but unless these are injected into the stratosphere, they have little effect. Stratospheric injection is most likely to occur at high latitudes, where the thickness of the troposphere is minimal. Volcanoes introduce CO2, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Geochemical effects of tectonic uplift and unroofing relate to the weathering of silicate rocks, the means by which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere-ocean system on long-term time scales.