Surprising Lesson from Snowball Earth: 1 of 2: P.M. Myrow. @ScienceMagazine

Jun 03, 01:37 AM


(Photo: Proglacial lacustrine rhythmitic argillite from the Precambrian of Virginia, USA.

The Snowball Earth Glaciations during the Neoproterozoic were the most significant ice ages that Earth ever experienced - two or three of them occurred in succession. The most extreme models describing Snowball Earth have glacial ice completely covering all continents and all oceans, even at the equator. Some models, called “Slushball Earth”, have Earth’s equatorial oceanic areas not completely frozen over. Each Snowball Earth Glaciation was followed by a super-greenhouse climate. The resulting sedimentary record of these “freeze-fry” events typically consists of glacial tillites and overlying cap carbonates. These units are preserved at many localities on Earth.

The rock shown above has well-preserved horizontal laminations in argillite (= a very low-grade metamorphic rock formed by slight alteration of shale). Note that the laminations are rhythmic in their thicknesses. These are rhythmites. Published research has identified these sediments as proglacial lacustrine turbidites - they appear to be varves. Varves are common sedimentary units in Pleistocene proglacial lake settings. This is a Snowball Earth equivalent. The rhythmicity reflects seasonal changes (summer-winter-summer-winter, etc.). Demonstrable annual layering is scarce in the sedimentary rock record.

Stratigraphy: Konnarock Formation, Neoproterozoic, ~750 Ma

Locality: Grassy Branch Outcrop - roadcut on the northern side of Rt. 603, just downstream from the Big Laurel Creek-Grassy Branch confluence, west of the town of Troutdale & east of the town of Konnarock, southern Smyth County, southwestern Virginia, USA (36º 40.900’ North latitude, 81º 33.988’ West longitude)

Date 14 October 2016, 13:55

Source Proglacial lacustrine rhythmitic argillite (varvite) (Konnarock Formation, Neoproterozoic, ~750 Ma; Grassy Branch Outcrop - Rt. 603 roadcut, Smyth County, Virginia, USA) 1

Author James St. John)

Twitter: @BatchelorShow

Surprising Lesson from Snowball Earth: 1 of 2: P.M. Myrow. @ScienceMagazine

Rapid sea level rise in the aftermath of a Neoproterozoic snowball Earth: P. M. Myrow1,*, M. P. Lamb2, R. C. Ewing3