Abstract

Earth was very dynamic during the Carboniferous with major components of the Pangea supercontinent being assembled from late Famennian to latest Pennsylvanian times, although maximum consolidation occurred during Late Permian – Early Triassic time. During the Carboniferous Period, our planet also underwent at least three major icehouse periods. The first two, in late Famennian – early Tournaisian and late Visean – Bashkirian times, indicate the onset of the Late Palaeozoic Ice Age (LPIA) with ice sheets being confined to the alpine regions of southern Gondwana. The third icehouse regime during Gzhelian – Early Permian time represents the main episode of the LPIA when a continental ice sheet developed on the Australian, Antarctic and southern African components of southern Gondwana. During the Tournaisian equatorial areas in Euramerica were occupied by extensive arid belts, in which massive carbonate deposits formed on vast platforms in that time. From the late Tournaisian into the Visean and Serpukhovian much of the equatorial belt developed into a humid-tropical realm and the former arid belt split and shifted to higher latitudes. Shelf-carbonate deposition continued over extensive areas of the continental shelves and western Palaeo-Tethys but coal swamps were developing in the forelands of the rising Appalachian and Variscan orogens. The late Serpukhovian – early Bashkirian interval saw the closure of the Rheic Ocean and a continent–continent collision between Euramerica (Laurussia) and Gondwana to form Pangea. As a consequence, a marked transition from Visean carbonate deposition to the development of coal swamps and deposition of siliciclastics during the Serpukhovian Stage occurred in many regions.

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