Neoproterozoic glacial deposits of central Australia
Published:January 01, 2011
Andrew C. Hill, Peter W. Haines, Kathleen Grey, 2011. "Neoproterozoic glacial deposits of central Australia", The Geological Record of Neoproterozoic Glaciations, Emmanuelle Arnaud, Galen P. Halverson, Graham Shields-Zhou
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There are two distinct stratigraphic levels of Neoproterozoic glacigenic deposits in central Australia, both Cryogenian in age, spread over an area greater than 2.5×106 km2. They were deposited in a once continuous intracratonic sag basin and are now preserved in four major structural basins: the Officer, Amadeus, Ngalia and Georgina Basins. In all four basins there are units that correlate with the (older) Sturt Tillite and equivalent glacial deposits in the Adelaide Rift Complex – the Sturt glaciation (Preiss et al. 2011) – and with the (younger) Elatina Formation (Fm.) and equivalents – the Elatina glaciation (Williams et al. 2008, 2011). The clearest evidence for glacial activity is the occurrence of diamictites that contain clasts of lithologically diverse origin which are often striated, faceted and polished, and the occurrence of dropstones. Most glacial deposits were deposited in shallow marine to fluvio-lacustrine palaeoenvironments. In all basins, the Elatina glacial deposits are overlain (at least locally) by dolostone units that mark the onset of post-glacial transgression and contain unique sedimentary and geochemical features. The cap dolomite units are distinct from dolomite beds within glaciogenic sediments, and those that occur near the top of Sturt glacial units in the Amadeus (Areyonga Fm.) and eastern Officer Basins (Chambers Bluff Tillite).
None of the central Australian glacial units have direct geochronological constraints. There are, however, radiometric dates for a Sturt glacial unit in the Adelaide Rift Complex (Wilyerpa Fm.) and post-glacial shales in the Amadeus Basin (Aralka Fm.), Stuart Shelf (Tapley Hill Fm.) and Adelaide Rift Complex (Tapley Hill Fm.) that indicate a c. 660 Ma age for the Sturt glaciation in Australia (Kendall et al. 2006, 2007; Fanning & Link 2008). The age of the Elatina glaciation in Australia is constrained only by the age of the Sturt glaciation and the presence of the Ediacara fauna in overlying strata of all the basins except the Ngalia Basin. Consequently, correlations have been mainly established by means of lithostratigraphy, chemostratigraphy, palynology, and to a lesser extent, stromatolite biostratigraphy, mainly on the successions above and below the glacial units. Results from each of the above techniques show a remarkable consistency, and indicate that the two major Cryogenian glacial episodes are of similar age across Australia.
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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.