Surface erosion is the most significant process responsible for the recycling of continental crust into the upper mantle, and controls both exhumation in mountain belts and the long-term global climate via chemical weathering. Earlier studies have highlighted the importance of climate instability since the onset of Northern Hemispheric Glaciation (~3 Ma) as being the primary influence causing high erosion rates since that time. Here I show that synchronous pulses of erosion and exhumation occurred across Eurasia, in North America and in Africa starting after 33 Ma, with a prominent peak around 16 Ma. Correlation of these erosional events with changes in global climate suggests that they are controlled by surface processes. Because these climate events involve both cooling and warming periods the importance of increased seasonality is emphasized as being the key factor in controlling global erosion and exhumation throughout the Cenozoic.