Abstract

The sedimentary distributions of carbon, sulfur, uranium, and ferric and ferrous iron depend greatly upon ambient oxygen pressure and should reflect any major change in proportion of oxygen in the atmosphere or hydrosphere. The similar distributions of these elements in sedimentary rocks of all ages are here interpreted to indicate the existence of a Precambrian atmosphere containing much oxygen.Organic carbon contents and distributions are similar in Precambrian and Quaternary sedimentary rocks and sediments, although distributions in both would have been sensitive to variations in rates of organic productivity and atmospheric oxygen pressure. Sedimentary pyrite is almost invariably closely associated with organic carbon, suggestive of formation by sulfate reduction, in sedimentary rocks of any age. Archean and Middle Precambrian cherty iron formations and uranium ores resemble Phanerozoic ores and probably formed similarly by diagenetic concentration. In general, we find no evidence in the sedimentary distributions of carbon, sulfur, uranium, or iron, that an oxygen-free atmosphere has existed at any time during the span of geological history recorded in well preserved sedimentary rocks.

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