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
Welcome Committee for Comets
19.07.2019 | Technische Universität Braunschweig
Sea level rise: West Antarctic ice collapse may be prevented by snowing ocean water onto it
18.07.2019 | Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung
Adjusting the thermal conductivity of materials is one of the challenges nanoscience is currently facing. Together with colleagues from the Netherlands and Spain, researchers from the University of Basel have shown that the atomic vibrations that determine heat generation in nanowires can be controlled through the arrangement of atoms alone. The scientists will publish the results shortly in the journal Nano Letters.
In the electronics and computer industry, components are becoming ever smaller and more powerful. However, there are problems with the heat generation. It is...
Scientists have visualised the electronic structure in a microelectronic device for the first time, opening up opportunities for finely-tuned high performance electronic devices.
Physicists from the University of Warwick and the University of Washington have developed a technique to measure the energy and momentum of electrons in...
Scientists at the University Würzburg and University Hospital of Würzburg found that megakaryocytes act as “bouncers” and thus modulate bone marrow niche properties and cell migration dynamics. The study was published in July in the Journal “Haematologica”.
Hematopoiesis is the process of forming blood cells, which occurs predominantly in the bone marrow. The bone marrow produces all types of blood cells: red...
For some phenomena in quantum many-body physics several competing theories exist. But which of them describes a quantum phenomenon best? A team of researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Harvard University in the United States has now successfully deployed artificial neural networks for image analysis of quantum systems.
Is that a dog or a cat? Such a classification is a prime example of machine learning: artificial neural networks can be trained to analyze images by looking...
An international research group led by scientists from the University of Bayreuth has produced a previously unknown material: Rhenium nitride pernitride. Thanks to combining properties that were previously considered incompatible, it looks set to become highly attractive for technological applications. Indeed, it is a super-hard metallic conductor that can withstand extremely high pressures like a diamond. A process now developed in Bayreuth opens up the possibility of producing rhenium nitride pernitride and other technologically interesting materials in sufficiently large quantity for their properties characterisation. The new findings are presented in "Nature Communications".
The possibility of finding a compound that was metallically conductive, super-hard, and ultra-incompressible was long considered unlikely in science. It was...
24.06.2019 | Event News
29.04.2019 | Event News
17.04.2019 | Event News
19.07.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
19.07.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
19.07.2019 | Earth Sciences