Earth and Planetary Science Professor Daniel Stolper Awarded 2017 Rose Hills Innovator Grant
Professor Stolper Award Winning Project
Title: Earth’s climatic thermostat: chemical weathering of oceanic crust as a key controller of Earth’s surface temperatures?
Abstract: Understanding what controls Earth’s climate on geological (million year) timescales and how the Earth has remained habitable over the past 4.5 billion years is a key area of research in Earth and Planetary Science. Earth’s climate is generally thought to be stabilized on geological timescales through weathering of terrestrial rocks, which promotes the conversion of CO2 into carbonate minerals — CO2 is a greenhouse gas that increases surface temperatures. Thus, removing it from the atmosphere provides a means to lower global temperatures. It has recently been proposed instead that submarine weathering of oceanic crust regulates climate. Specifically warmer climates lead to warmer oceans and thus warmer fluids circulating through oceanic crust. As weathering rates increase with temperature, these warmer fluids increase oceanic crust weathering rates, converting more CO2 to carbonate minerals (stored in oceanic crust), lowering atmospheric CO2 levels and stabilizing climate. If correct, this changes the paradigm of how climate has been regulated on Earth’s surface over geological time as well as potentially on exoplanets. However, this idea remains untested. Here, I propose to test it by measuring carbonate formation temperatures formed in oceanic crust from the past 170 million years using new isotopic techniques. Mean global temperatures are known to have cooled by ~15-20°C over this period. If carbonate formation in oceanic crust responds to ocean temperatures, then measured formation temperatures should cool over this time period as well.
Profile: Daniel Stolper joined the Department of Earth and Planetary Science as an assistant professor in 2017. His research focuses on scientific problems related to the rock record, microbiology, and biogeochemical cycles in the past and present. These include developing new records of the history of atmospheric oxygen concentrations, paleoclimate reconstructions of past ocean temperatures, and studying feedbacks between the solid and surface earth. Daniel received his Ph.D. in geobiology from Caltech in 2014 and then spent 2 years as a NOAA Global and Climate Change postdoctoral fellow at Princeton before coming to Berkeley. Daniel’s laboratory is focused on mass spectrometric measurements of molecules with multiple rare, stable isotopes (known as ‘clumped” isotope geochemistry) from both environmental and experimental samples. He is also an affiliate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area.
About The Rose Hills Innovator Program
The Rose Hills Innovator Program supports distinguished early-career faculty at UC Berkeley interested in developing highly innovative research programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The program intends to strengthen the efforts of UC Berkeley’s world-class faculty by providing seed support for projects with exceptionally high scientific promise that may generate significant follow-on funding. More information about the program can be found by clicking here.