Abstract

The end Ordovician glaciation is distinct among Phanerozoic glaciations in that CO2, levels were generally high, yet major continental ice sheets accumulated on the Gondwana supercontinent. New oxygen isotopic data indicate substantial changes in sea-water temperatures and ice volume coinciding with glacio-eustatic changes in sea level reflecting the growth and decay of the Gondwana ice cap. Major glaciation was apparently confined to the Hirnantian and was 0.5-1 m.y. long, rather than the 35 m.y. of earlier estimates. Carbon isotope values indicate significant changes in carbon cycling as the oceans changed from a state with warm saline bottom waters to a state with cold deep-water circulation and then back again. We believe that the changes in the carbon cycle effected a reduction in PCO2 levels in the oceans and atmosphere and thus promoted glaciation but were unable to sustain icehouse conditions in a greenhouse world.

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