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Slow net sediment accumulation sets snowball Earth apart from all younger glacial episodes

Camille A. Partin and Peter M. Sadler
Slow net sediment accumulation sets snowball Earth apart from all younger glacial episodes
Geology (Boulder) (December 2016) 44 (12): 1019-1022


During the Sturtian and Marinoan "snowball Earth" episodes, ice cover is thought to have extended from polar to tropical latitudes. We test the supposition that such an extreme glacial climate, not repeated in the subsequent approximately 635 m.y. of Earth history, would have reduced the vigor of the hydrologic cycle and thus diminished sediment flux to the oceans. With >500 sediment accumulation rates to characterize Sturtian and Marinoan deposits, we find median accumulation rates at least four to 15 times slower than expected for Phanerozoic glaciomarine deposits as characterized by >10,000 rates. Our comparison is conservative with respect to time span, latitude, and distance from the ice margin. Phanerozoic accumulation rates decrease systematically when averaged over longer time spans. Comparisons were drawn, therefore, at 5 and 57 m.y. time spans to match minimum Marinoan and Sturtian durations, respectively. Cenozoic glaciomarine accumulation also slows with increasing latitude from temperate to polar climates and with increasing distance from the ice margin. After accounting for time span, snowball Earth deposits at low latitude are found to be thinner than would be expected either for high-latitude Cenozoic glacial deposits or for very distal glaciomarine abyssal muds with ice-rafted debris. The rate discrepancy is not readily attributed to overestimates of the total Marinoan or Sturtian durations. If sediment fluxes during warm melt intervals did approach Phanerozoic rates, these intervals must have occupied a much smaller proportion of snowball Earth episodes than in younger glacial climates.

ISSN: 0091-7613
EISSN: 1943-2682
Serial Title: Geology (Boulder)
Serial Volume: 44
Serial Issue: 12
Title: Slow net sediment accumulation sets snowball Earth apart from all younger glacial episodes
Affiliation: University of Saskatchewan, Department of Geological Sciences, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
Pages: 1019-1022
Published: 201612
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 29
Accession Number: 2017-005855
Categories: Stratigraphy
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: GSA Data Repository item 2016342
Illustration Description: illus.
Secondary Affiliation: University of California at Riverside, USA, United States
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 201705
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