Geochemists have long recognized a correlation between rates of physical denudation and chemical weathering. What underlies this correlation? The Critical Zone can be considered as a feed-through reactor. Downward advance of the weathering front brings unweathered rock into the reactor. Fluids are supplied through precipitation. The reactor is stirred at the top by biological and physical processes. The balance between advance of the weathering front by mechanical and chemical processes and mass loss by denudation fixes the thickness of the Critical Zone reactor. The internal structure of this reactor is controlled by physical processes that create surface area, determine flow paths, and set the residence time of material in the Critical Zone. All of these impact chemical weathering flux.
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Physical and chemical controls on the critical zone