Neoproterozoic low latitude glaciations : an African perspective
Straathof, Gijsbert Bastiaan
The Neoproterozoic is one of the most enigmatic periods in Earth history. In the juxtaposition of glacial and tropical deposits the sedimentary record provides evidence for extreme climate change. Various models have tried to explain these apparent contradictions. One of the most popular models is the Snowball Earth Hypothesis which envisages periods of global glaciations. All climatic models are dependent on palaeogeography which as yet remains poorly constrained for the Neoproterozoic. This thesis presents a multidisciplinary study of two Neoproterozoic sedimentary basins on the Congo and West Africa cratons including radiometric dating of glacial deposits themselves. In the West Congo Belt, western Congo Craton, a new U-Pb baddeleyite age for the Lower Diamictite provides the first high quality direct age for the older of two glacial intervals. This age is significantly different from previously dated glaciogenic deposits on the Congo Craton. This result strongly suggests that the mid-Cryogenian was a period during which several local glaciations occurred, none of which were global. While the palaeomagnetic results from carbonates around the younger glacial interval are probably remagnetised, detrital zircon and chemostratigraphic results allow correlation with numerous late-Cryogenian glaciogenic deposits worldwide and a Snowball Earth scenario is favoured here. In the Adrar Sub-Basin of the vast Taoudéni Basin, West Africa, the terrigenous Jbeliat glacial horizon has been studied in great detail. Detrital zircon geochronology reveals large changes in provenance through this glacial unit with implications for sedimentological approaches and techniques for provenance characterisations based on one sample alone. Together with recently published U-Pb data these results constrain the age of the Jbeliat Group to a narrow window providing vital geochronological information for this younger glacial event. Combining provenance geochemistry, chemostratigraphy and U-Pb dating has greatly improved our understanding of two of the largest Neoproterozoic sedimentary basins. The dominance of Mesoproterozoic detrital material, for which no source has been reported near either of the field areas, has consequences for the proximity of other cratons at the time of deposition, prior to the final amalgamation of Gondwana.