The record of Neoproterozoic glaciations in the Windermere Supergroup, southern Canadian Cordillera
Published:January 01, 2011
Mark D. Smith, Emmanuelle Arnaud, R. W. C. Arnott, Gerald M. Ross, 2011. "The record of Neoproterozoic glaciations in the Windermere Supergroup, southern Canadian Cordillera", The Geological Record of Neoproterozoic Glaciations, Emmanuelle Arnaud, Galen P. Halverson, Graham Shields-Zhou
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The Neoproterozoic Windermere Supergroup (WSG) is exposed over an area of 35 000 km2 in the southern Canadian Cordillera, and consists primarily of deep-marine meta-sedimentary rocks interpreted to have been deposited during rifting and subsequent post-rift thermal relaxation. The main exposures of the WSG occur within thrust panels and structural culminations of the eastern Cordilleran orogen. Within the thick stratigraphic succession (c. 9 km) are three units of glaciogenic affinity: Toby, Vreeland and Old Fort Point (OFP) formations. The Toby Formation (Fm.) is composed of up to 2500 m of diamictite, interbedded with conglomerate, sandstone, mudstone, carbonate and mafic volcanic rocks. The Vreeland Formation ranges from 350 m to 2000 m in thickness and consists of diamictite, interbedded with mudstone, sandstone and conglomerate. The OFP ranges from 60 to 450 m in thickness and consists of a distinctive threefold stratigraphic package of basal siltstone grading upward into limestone–siltstone rhythmite, organic-rich mudstone and an overlying heterolithic unit of diamictite, breccia, conglomerate, sandstone, siltstone to mudstone and limestone. A locally prominent unconformity marks the base of the OFP upper member. Both the Toby and Vreeland formations represent remobilized glacially derived marine sediments deposited by sediment-gravity flows. Deposition of the Toby Fm. was fault-controlled during an active tectonic phase (rifting), whereas the Vreeland Fm. accumulated during the subsequent quiescent phase (post-rift) with limited structural control. The OFP is interpreted to be a regionally extensive deep-marine post-glacial marker temporally associated with the glaciogenic Vreeland Fm. Although direct geochronological ages for WSG units in southwestern Canada are generally absent, high-precision radiometric ages of underlying and overlying igneous events constrain the relative maximum and minimum timing of deposition from c. 740–728 Ma to c. 569 Ma. At the base of the WSG succession, the Toby Fm. may be as young as c. 685 Ma based on ages obtained from potential stratigraphic correlatives in the USA. There is no direct age constraint for the deposition of the Vreeland Fm.; its minimum timing is based on its stratigraphic relationship with the post-glacial OFP. The middle member of the OFP was precisely dated at 607.8±4.7 Ma using the Re–Os method, placing it in the Ediacaran Period. Published geochemical and stable isotopic data are similarly limited for all three units with only some δ34Spy values available from one section of the OFP. Recent work has focused on detailed sedimentological and stratigraphic studies of the Toby and OFP formations with future efforts being directed towards integrated geochemical and isotopic research. Additional geochronological constraints are needed to refine palaeogeographical models and strengthen regional correlations with other North American Cordilleran glaciogenic units.
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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.