The Geologic History of Seawater

T. K. Lowenstein, B. Kendall, Ariel Anbar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

43 Scopus citations


The geologic record provides clues to the history of seawater over the past 4Gy. This article highlights key insights from the rapid progress of the past decade, focusing on periods of important geochemical changes and how these changes influenced and were influenced by the evolution of life on Earth. In the Hadean, Archean, and Paleoproterozoic, the origin of the oceans, the emergence of the biosphere, and the rise of oxygen take center stage, especially as revealed by the marine geochemistry of carbon, sulfur, and redox-sensitive metals. In the Meso- and Neoproterozoic, the focus shifts to the interplay between the evolution of the ocean carbon and oxygen cycles and the biology that mediates these cycles. In the Phanerozoic, the discussion centers on cycles in the Mg2+/Ca2+ ratio of seawater, δ34S, and Sr2+/Ca2+, and how they coincide with the mineralogies of limestones and evaporites. How the timing of these cycles may connect to the breakup and assembly of tectonic plates, midocean ridge crust production and hydrothermal activity, global chemical weathering, seawater chemistry, and biomineralization are reviewed. Influences on the mineralogy of shell-building organisms, particularly during the time mineralized skeletons first evolved, are also considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oceans and Marine Geochemistry
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages54
ISBN (Print)9780080983004
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Ancient seawater chemistry
  • Geologic history of oceans
  • Great Oxidation Event
  • Iron
  • Molybdenum
  • Ocean oxygenation
  • Redox-sensitive metals
  • Snowball Earth
  • Strontium
  • Sulfur isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The Geologic History of Seawater'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this