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Credit: W K Fletcher

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Enhanced Weathering of Minerals

Layered ultramafic olivine rock, Duke Island, Alaska

During Earth’s 3.7 billion-year journey, rocks have sequestered many trillions of tons of carbon dioxide. Natural rock weathering removes approximately 1 billion tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide annually. Various types of silicate rock on the surface of the earth are weathered by carbon dioxide and dissolved in rainwater, which transforms the carbon dioxide into inorganic carbonates. These carbonates find their way into streams, rivers, and oceans, eventually becoming calcium carbonate.

Enhanced weathering of minerals refers to technologies that hasten this process sustainably. One type of silicate that would work well is olivine, a greenish mineral, rich in magnesium and iron. Enhanced weathering would involve mining and milling olivine and then applying the resulting rock powder to land and water, so that the soil, oceans, and biota can act as “reactors” for accelerated weathering.

The rock powder could be strategically distributed over various landscapes, using existing infrastructure for the management of farm and forest soils. Agricultural land in the tropics, where soils are warmer and wetter and have fewer minerals that would inhibit dissolution, are ideal. If applied to one-third of tropical land, olivine could lower atmospheric carbon dioxide by 30 to 300 parts per million by 2100.


fluctuations in the annual carbon cycle: NASA. Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2).

“basalts…unlimited storage capacity”: Mooney, Chris. “They May Save Us Yet: Scientists Found a Way to Turn Our Carbon Emissions into Rock.” Washington Post. November 18, 2016.


Additional Background Sources

Curran, James C., and Samuel A. Curran. “An Estimate of the Climate Change Significance of the Decline in the Northern Hemisphere’s Uptake of Carbon Dioxide in Biomass.” Weather 71, no. 9 (2016): 226-227.

Dessert, Céline, Bernard Dupré, Jérôme Gaillardet, Louis M. François, and Claude J. Allegre. “Basalt Weathering Laws and the Impact of Basalt Weathering on the Global Carbon Cycle.” Chemical Geology 202, no. 3 (2003): 257-273.

Doney, Scott C., Victoria J. Fabry, Richard A. Feely, and Joan A. Kleypas. “Ocean Acidification: The Other CO2 Problem.” Annual Review of Marine Science 1 (2009): 169-192.

Gasser, T., Céline Guivarch, K. Tachiiri, C. D. Jones, and P. Ciais. “Negative Emissions Physically Needed to Keep Global Warming Below 2°C.” Nature Communications 6 (2015): 7958.

Hartmann, Jens, A. Joshua West, Phil Renforth, Peter Köhler, Christina L. De La Rocha, Dieter A. Wolf‐Gladrow, Hans H. Dürr, and Jürgen Scheffran. “Enhanced Chemical Weathering as a Geoengineering Strategy to Reduce Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, Supply Nutrients, and Mitigate Ocean Acidification.” Reviews of Geophysics 51, no. 2 (2013): 113-149.

Keenan, Trevor F., I. Colin Prentice, Josep G. Canadell, Christopher A. Williams, Han Wang, Michael Raupach, and G. James Collatz. “Recent Pause in the Growth Rate of Atmospheric CO2 Due to Enhanced Terrestrial Carbon Uptake.” Nature Communications 7 (2016): 13428.

Köhler, Peter, Jens Hartmann, and Dieter A. Wolf-Gladrow. “Geoengineering Potential of Artificially Enhanced Silicate Weathering of Olivine.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107, no. 47 (2010): 20228-20233.

Köhler, Peter, Jesse F. Abrams, Christoph Völker, Judith Hauck, and Dieter A. Wolf-Gladrow. “Geoengineering Impact of Open Ocean Dissolution of Olivine on Atmospheric CO2, Surface Ocean PH, and Marine Biology.” Environmental Research Letters 8, no. 1 (2013): 014009.

Matter, Juerg M., W. S. Broecker, S. R. Gislason, E. Gunnlaugsson, E. H. Oelkers, M. Stute, H. Sigurdardóttir et al. “The CarbFix Pilot Project—Storing Carbon Dioxide in Basalt.” Energy Procedia 4 (2011): 5579-5585.

Matter, Juerg M., Martin Stute, Sandra Ó. Snæbjörnsdottir, Eric H. Oelkers, Sigurdur R. Gislason, Edda S. Aradottir, Bergur Sigfusson et al. “Rapid Carbon Mineralization for Permanent Disposal of Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide Emissions.” Science 352, no. 6291 (2016): 1312-1314.

McGrail, B. Peter, Herbert T. Schaef, Frank A. Spane, John B. Cliff, Odeta Qafoku, Jake A. Horner, Christopher J. Thompson, Antoinette T. Owen, and Charlotte E. Sullivan. “Field Validation of Supercritical CO2 Reactivity with Basalts.” Environmental Science & Technology Letters 4, no. 1 (2017): 6-10.

Moosdorf, Nils, Phil Renforth, and Jens Hartmann. “Carbon Dioxide Efficiency of Terrestrial Enhanced Weathering.” Environmental Science & Technology 48, no. 9 (2014): 4809-4816.

Oelkers, Eric H., Sigurdur R. Gislason, and Juerg Matter. “Mineral Carbonation of CO2.” Elements 4, no. 5 (2008): 333-337.

Renforth, Phil. “The Potential of Enhanced Weathering in the UK.” International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control 10 (2012): 229-243.

Renforth, Philip, PAE Pogge von Strandmann, and G. M. Henderson. “The Dissolution of Olivine Added to Soil: Implications for Enhanced Weathering.” Applied Geochemistry 61 (2015): 109-118.

Schuiling, R. D., and P. Krijgsman. “Enhanced Weathering: An Effective and Cheap Tool to Sequester CO2.” Climatic Change 74, no. 1 (2006): 349-354.

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