Abstract

Secular changes in the mineralogies of marine nonskeletal limestones and potash evaporites occur in phase on a 100–200 m.y. time scale such that periods of “aragonite seas” are synchronized with MgSO4 evaporites and periods of “calcite seas” with KCl evaporites. It is proposed that these coupled changes are the result of secular variation in seawater chemistry controlled primarily by fluctuations in the mid-ocean ridge hydrothermal brine flux, which in turn have been driven by fluctuations in the rate of ocean crust production. Quantitative predictions based on this hypothesis yield secular variation in limestone and potash evaporite mineralogies that closely match the observed variation over the past 600 m.y., providing strong support for the thesis that seawater chemistry, rather than remaining constant, has oscillated significantly over geologic time.

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