Chemostratigraphy and the Neoproterozoic glaciations
Published:January 01, 2011
Galen P. Halverson, Graham Shields-Zhou, 2011. "Chemostratigraphy and the Neoproterozoic glaciations", The Geological Record of Neoproterozoic Glaciations, Emmanuelle Arnaud, Galen P. Halverson, Graham Shields-Zhou
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Although the pre-glacial Proterozoic isotopic record is poorly constrained, it is apparent that the chemical and isotopic composition of the oceans began to change during the early to mid-Neoproterozoic and experienced considerable fluctuations alongside climatic instability during much of the subsequent Cryogenian and Ediacaran periods. The earliest known large negative δ13C excursion appears to post-date 811 Ma and fluctuations became progressively more extreme, culminating in the late-Ediacaran ‘Shuram–Wonoka’ anomaly. The negative excursions are commonly associated with pre-glacial and post-glacial times, while extremely high δ13C values are characteristic of strata between glaciations. The precise causal mechanism for these excursions is subject to debate. Seawater 87Sr/86Sr rose during the Neoproterozoic, with abrupt increases following deglaciation consistent with enhanced weathering rates. Reported marine sulphate and pyrite δ34S data exhibit marked variation through this interval, although the changes are not always consistent within or between sedimentary successions of equivalent age. Iron-speciation studies indicate that much of this variation was caused by fluctuating and low sulphate concentrations in seawater, which at times led to the build-up of ferruginous conditions in the ocean. The application of chemostratigraphy to understanding and correlating the Neoproterozoic glaciations evokes considerable controversy, and many questions persist regarding the reliability and calibration of the δ13C, 87Sr/86Sr and δ34S record. Nevertheless, the individual glaciations appear to be characterized by distinct combined chemostratigraphic signatures, in large part due to the generally increasing strontium isotope composition of seawater through the Neoproterozoic Era.
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The Geological Record of Neoproterozoic Glaciations
In recent years, interest in Neoproterozoic glaciations has grown as their pivotal role in Earth system evolution has become increasingly clear. One of the main goals of the IGCP Project No. 512 was to produce a synthesis of newly available information on Neoproterozoic successions worldwide similar in format to Hambrey & Harland’s (1981) Earth’s pre-Pleistocene Glacial Record. This Memoir therefore consists of a series of overview chapters followed by site-specific chapters. The overview chapters cover key topics including the history of research on Neoproterozoic glaciations, identification of glacial deposits, chemostratigraphic techniques and datasets, palaeomagnetism, biostratigraphy, geochronology and climate modelling. The site specific chapters for 60 successions worldwide include reviews of the history of research on these rocks and up-to-date syntheses of the structural framework, tectonic setting, palaeomagnetic and geochronological constraints, physical, biological, and chemical stratigraphy, and descriptions of the glaciogenic and associated strata, including economic deposits.