Abstract

The snowball Earth hypothesis predicts a strong hysteresis resulting in discrete multi-million-year glaciations followed by globally synchronous deglaciation. Here we present new U-Pb zircon and Re-Os sedimentary rock geochronology and Os isotope chemostratigraphy from post-Sturtian sequences in south China to test the synchroneity of deglaciation. High-precision chemical abrasion–isotope dilution–thermal ionization mass spectrometry (CA-ID-TIMS) U-Pb zircon dates refine the minimum age of deglaciation to 660.98 ± 0.74 Ma, which is ∼2 m.y. older than previously reported. We also provide a new maximum age constraint on the onset of the Marinoan glaciation of 657.17 ± 0.78 Ma. A global compilation of new Os isotope chemostratigraphy reveals a large and systematic trend to unradiogenic values over <1 m of stratigraphy. Together, these data indicate that the Mn-carbonates in south China are not cap carbonates that formed as a response to post-snowball alkalinity, but are authigenic carbonates that formed millions of years after deglaciation. Sturtian cap carbonates tend to be absent or more condensed than their younger Marinoan counterparts. We suggest that this reflects a combination of enhanced accommodation space in early Cryogenian underfilled rift basins, stronger hysteresis, larger ice volume, and/or higher CO2 levels needed for deglaciation of the longer Sturtian glaciation. Further, our findings indicate that the apparent diachroneity of deglaciation can be explained readily as a consequence of stratigraphic condensation, itself due to the large post-Sturtian glacioeustatic transgressive sequence that outpaced shallow-water carbonate deposition.

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