Oscillations in Phanerozoic Seawater Chemistry: Evidence from Fluid Inclusions

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Science  02 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5544, pp. 1086-1088
DOI: 10.1126/science.1064280

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Systematic changes in the chemistry of evaporated seawater contained in primary fluid inclusions in marine halites indicate that seawater chemistry has fluctuated during the Phanerozoic. The fluctuations are in phase with oscillations in seafloor spreading rates, volcanism, global sea level, and the primary mineralogies of marine limestones and evaporites. The data suggest that seawater had high Mg2+/Ca2+ ratios (>2.5) and relatively high Na+ concentrations during the Late Precambrian [544 to 543 million years ago (Ma)], Permian (258 to 251 Ma), and Tertiary through the present (40 to 0 Ma), when aragonite and MgSO4salts were the dominant marine precipitates. Conversely, seawater had low Mg2+/Ca2+ ratios (<2.3) and relatively low Na+ concentrations during the Cambrian (540 to 520 Ma), Silurian (440 to 418 Ma), and Cretaceous (124 to 94 Ma), when calcite was the dominant nonskeletal carbonate and K-, Mg-, and Ca-bearing chloride salts, were the only potash evaporites.

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