Abstract

The Earth’s climate cooled through the Ordovician Period leading up to the Hirnantian glaciation. Increased weatherability of silicate rocks associated with topography generated on the Appalachian margin during the Taconic orogeny has been proposed as a mechanism for Ordovician cooling. However, paleogeographic reconstructions typically place the Appalachian margin within the arid subtropics, outside of the warm and wet tropics where chemical weathering rates are highest. In this study, we reanalyze the paleomagnetic database and conclude that Ordovician constraints from cratonic Laurentia are not robust. Instead, we use paleomagnetic data from well-dated volcanic rocks in the accreting terranes to constrain Laurentia’s position given that the Appalachian margin was at, or equatorward of, the paleolatitude of these terranes. To satisfy these allochthonous data, Laurentia must have moved toward the equator during the Ordovician such that the Appalachian margin was within 10° of the equator by 465 Ma. This movement into the tropics coincided with the collision and exhumation of the Taconic arc system, recorded by a shift in neodymium isotope data from shale on the Appalachian margin to more juvenile values. This inflection in detrital neodymium isotope values precedes a major downturn in global seawater strontium isotopic values by more than one million years, as would be predicted from a change in weathering input and the relatively long residence time of strontium in the ocean. These data are consistent with an increase in global weatherability associated with the tropical weathering of mafic and ultramafic lithologies exhumed during the Taconic arc-continent collision. A Taconic related increase in weatherability is a viable mechanism for lowering atmospheric CO2 levels through silicate weathering contributing to long-term Ordovician cooling.

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