Seminar-Mountains, Climate, Carbon


ESCI 555.  Seminar on interplays between mountain building, climate, and global carbon cycling

Spring, 2015

Instructors:  Albarede, Blichert-Toft, Dasgupta, Gonnermann, Lee, Lenardic, Levander, Morgan, Niu, Oncken, Yeung, Yokoyama, Nittrouer, Masiello, Gordon, Dickens

MONDAY:  12-2 PM, Geology 100

This course will meet once a week for two hours to discuss the interplays between tectonics, specifically mountain building, with climate and the global carbon cycle. We will discuss the different tectonic and geodynamic processes that drive mountain building and surface uplift, such as subduction, continent collisions, and magmatism.  We will also discuss how uplift influences climate, erosion, weathering and sedimentation, and how climate, in turn, influences uplift.  We will interrogate various geologic archives to evaluate whether major long-term climatic events correlate with observed geologic events, such as enhanced mountain building, sedimentary deposition, and changes in biogeochemical cycling.  The goal of this seminar is to bring together expertise from vastly different fields to address an inherently interdisciplinary problem.

In the first hour of each session, a faculty or graduate student/post-doct will provide a general overview of a particular topic and lead the discussions.  One or two papers will be discussed in the second hour with the aim of ending with a series of important questions to follow up on. Students will be expected to follow up on the discussed topics and present a synthesis at the end of the course. This synthesis should identify key questions for future research and provide a roadmap for how these questions can be addressed or answered.  Each student team will consistent of 2 students and one faculty mentor.  The two students should come from different disciplines, e.g., seismologist and geochemist, in order to take advantage of the interdisciplinary setting.

Discussions on REDDIT

We have set up a Reddit account for ALL the faculty and ONLY students who signed up on the paper today. Visit to use the forum. Bookmark this page, and use it to access the forum, not the overall reddit homepage.  Your username is first initial (lowercase), full last name (lowercase), underscore, ESCI (e.g. amoodie_ESCI). You can change the password in the settings if you want to. If you have two initials (e.g. Cin-Ty) we used both initials, and we used full names whenever we knew them (e.g. Gerald Dickens).

26 January – Overview of Mountains and climate (Cin-Ty Lee)

Required reading – click here for presentation

Raymo and Ruddiman, 1992, Tectonic forcing of late Cenozoic climate, Nature 359:117-122.

Molnar and England, 1990. Late Cenozoic uplift of mountain ranges and global climate change: chicken or egg?, Nature 346: 29-34.

England and Molnar, 1990, Surface uplift, uplift of rocks, and exhumation of rocks, Geology 18:1173-1177.

Supplemental reading

McKenzie et al., 2014, Plate tectonic influences on Neoproterozoic-early Paleozoic climate and animal evolution, Geology 42:127-130.

2 February – Kinematics of mountain building, mass fluxes, tectonics, erosion (ONNO ONCKEN)

Required reading  – click here for presentation

Whipple, KX (2009)The influence of climate on the tectonic evolution of mountain belts. NATURE GEOSCIENCE, Volume: 2, 2: 97-104, DOI: 10.1038/ngeo413

Strecker, MR;Alonso, RN; Bookhagen, B; Carrapa, B; Hilley, GE; Sobel, ER; Trauth, MH (2007) Tectonics and climate of the southern central Andes. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 35: 747-787; DOI: 10.1146/

Lamb, S; Davis, P (2003) Cenozoic climate change as a possible cause for the rise of the Andes. NATURE 425: 792-797. DOI: 10.1038/nature02049

Supplemenral reading:


Clift, P., Vannucchi, P (2004) Controls on tectonic accretion versus erosion in subduction zones: Implications for the origin and recycling of the continental crust. REVIEWS OF GEOPHYSICS 42; DOI: 10.1029/2003RG000127

9 February – Paleo-altimetry: prospects and pitfalls (LAURENCE YEUNG)

click here for presentation

Rowley and Garzione, 2007, Stable-isotope based paleoaltimetry, AREPS 35:463-508

Ehlers and Poulson 2009, Influence of Andean uplift on climate and paleoaltimetry estimates, EPSL 281:238-248

Garzione et al. 2008, Rise of the Andes, Science 320:1304-1307.

McElwain 2004, Climate-independent paleoaltimetry using stomatal density in fossil leaves as a proxy for CO2 partial pressure. Geology 32:1017-1020

Sahagian 2002, Analysis of Vesicular Basalts and Lava Emplacement Processes for application as a Paleobarometer/Paleoaltimeter, J. Geology 110: 671-685

16 February – Deep structure of continents and mountains (ALAN LEVANDER, FENGLIN NIU)

 click here for presentation


Clark and Royden, 2000, Topographic ooze: building the eastern margin of Tibet by lower crustal flow, Geology 28:703-706.

Shapiro, Ritzwoller, Molnar, Levin, 2004, Thinning and flow of Tibetan crust constrained by seismic anisotropy, Science 305:233

Egholm, nielsen, Pedersen, Lesemann, 2009, Glacial effects limiting mountain height, Nature 460, doi:10.1038/nature08263

23 February – Glacial Buzz saw  (JOHN ANDERSON)

 click here for presentation

Koppes and Montgomery, 2009, The relative efficacy of fluvial and glacial erosion over modern to orogenic timescales, Nature Geoscience; doi:10.1038/NGEO616

Yanites and Ehlers, 2012, Global climate and tectonic controls on the denudation of glaciated mountains. EPSL 325-326:63-75

9 March – Origin of melts of orogenic processes (Cin-Ty Lee

Melting lecture notes

Delamination lecture notes

16 March – Exhumation, paleoclimate (Yusuke Yokoyama)

click here for presentation

Clift et al., 2008, Correlation of Himalayan exhumation rates and Asian monsoon intensity, Nature Geosciences, vol 1: 875

Willenbring and von Blanckenburg, 2010, Long-term stability of global erosion rates and weathering during late-cenozoic cooling, Nature 465:211.

23 March – Global volatile cycling (e.g., carbon), metamorphism, volcanism (RAJDEEP DASGUPTA)

click here for presentation

Kerrick, D.M., Connolly, J.A.D., 2001. Metamorphic devolatilization of subducted oceanic metabasalts: implications for seismicity, arc magmatism and volatile recycling. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 189, 19-29.

Wallace, P.J., 2005. Volatiles in subduction zone magmas: concentrations and fluxes based on melt inclusion and volcanic gas data. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 140, 217-240.

Hayes, J.F., Waldbauer, J.R., 2006. The carbon cycle and associated redox processes through time. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B361, 931-950.

30 March – Thermochronology (Francis Albarede)


 Braun, J. 2005, Quantitative constraints on the rate of landform evolution derived from low-temperature thermochronology, RIMG 58:351-374.

England and Thompson, 1984, Pressure-temperature-time paths of regional metamorphismI. Heat Transfer during the evolution of regions of thickened continental crust, J. Petrology 25:894-928.

Harrison et al. 2005 Continuous thermal histories from inversion of closure profiles, RIMG 58: 389-409

Reiners and Brandon, 2006, Using thermochronology to understand orogenic erosion, AREPS 34:419-466

6 April – Free-form discussions (Julia Morgan moderator)

Students should self-organize and come prepared to informally discuss some of the past lectures, highlighting what they think were some of the key points and laying out a list of outstandi36:531-567ng questions.  Students should work things out on the white-board, i.e., no need for powerpoints. Julia Morgan will moderate.

13 April – Magma emplacement (Helge Gonnermann)

click here for lecture notes

Burgmann and Dresen, 2008, Rheology of the lower crust and upper mantle: evidence from rock mechanics, geodesy and field observations, AREPS 36: 531-567

Ducea, M. N., Saleeby, J. B., Bergantz, G., 2015, The architecture, chemistry, and evolution of continental magmatic arcs, AREPS 43:10.1-10.33.

Kohn, M. J., 2014, Himalayan metamorphism and its tectonic implications, AREPS 42:381-419.

20 April – Student presentations