German-Mexican research team discover large igneous province which could have triggered an early glaciation of Earth
A major volcanic event could have triggered one of the largest glaciations in Earth's history – the Gaskiers glaciation, which turned the Earth into a giant snowball approximately 580 million years ago. Researchers from Heidelberg University and colleagues from Mexico have discovered remnants of such a large igneous province that resulted from vast lava flows.
Photomicrograph of basaltic dyke rock in a thin section. The rock consists mainly of calcic feldspar. The image width is five millimetres.
Bodo Weber (CICESE)
At the time, it extended over three continents, which today comprises the Earth's crust in parts of Mexico, North America, and northern Europe. The basaltic eruptions must have covered an area of at least a thousand kilometres in diameter. The results of the research were published in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters”.
Volcanism is a natural process that releases the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Weathering of silicate rocks on Earth’s surface traps atmospheric CO2 and sequesters it in carbonate rocks.
“That guarantees long-term stability of Earth’s temperate surface conditions in comparison to the hostile environment of its cosmic neighbours, hot Venus and cold Mars,” explains Prof. Dr Axel K. Schmitt of the Institute of Earth Sciences at Heidelberg University.
Disturbances of this equilibrium, however, are known to have occurred throughout Earth’s history. “At the end of the Proterozoic Eon, there were three worldwide glaciations. From space, the Earth would have resembled a snowball,” adds the geoscientist.
Extreme volcanic outpourings resulting in so-called large igneous provinces could be responsible for these Snowball Earth global glaciations. When continental land masses break up, it causes a volcanic binge that also releases massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, which can cause short-term global warming.
Then, however, the lava rock begins to weather. “The weathering process is especially intense at tropical latitudes. Over timescales of millions to tens of millions of years, the weathered rocks can sequester sufficient carbon dioxide to plunge Earth’s climate into an extreme ice age,” explains Prof. Schmitt.
The German-Mexican team which included researchers from the Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenda (CICESE) studied basaltic dike rocks from the Novillo Gneiss in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. These dikes are the roots of lava flows that have been long eroded.
The research team demonstrated that dike rocks from Mexico are indistinguishable in their trace element and isotopic compositions to dated rocks from Canada and Norway. Moreover, the Heidelberg team was successful in retrieving microscopic mineral grains of baddeleyite from the Mexican samples.
Baddeleyite exclusively crystallises in magma and thus is a reliable indicator for the timing of volcanism. In this case, with the help of a high spatial resolution ion microprobe at the Institute of Earth Sciences, the rare mineral was determined to be 619 million years old.
According to Prof. Schmitt, this date perfectly matches the time when the rocks found in Canada and Norway were formed. The researchers speculate that the long-term climate effects of this large igneous province led to the Gaskiers glaciation approximately 40 million years later.
Communications and Marketing
Phone +49 6221 54-2311
Prof. Dr Axel Schmitt
Institute of Earth Sciences
Phone +49 6221 54-8206
B. Weber, A. Schmitt, A. Cisneros de León, R. González-Guzmán: Coeval Early Ediacaran breakup of Amazonia, Baltica and Laurentia: evidence from micro-baddeleyite dating of dykes from the Novillo Canyon, Mexico. Geophysical Research Letters, https://doi.org/10.1029/2018GL079976
Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Atmospheric scientists reveal the effect of sea-ice loss on Arctic warming
11.03.2019 | Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
11.03.2019 | University of Tokyo
Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.
The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...
Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.
Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...
The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.
A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...
New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum
For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...
11.03.2019 | Event News
01.03.2019 | Event News
28.02.2019 | Event News
21.03.2019 | Life Sciences
21.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
21.03.2019 | HANNOVER MESSE