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The Magnitude and Duration of Late Ordovician–Early Silurian Glaciation

Science  18 Feb 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6019, pp. 903-906
DOI: 10.1126/science.1200803

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Abstract

Understanding ancient climate changes is hampered by the inability to disentangle trends in ocean temperature from trends in continental ice volume. We used carbonate “clumped” isotope paleothermometry to constrain ocean temperatures, and thereby estimate ice volumes, through the Late Ordovician–Early Silurian glaciation. We find tropical ocean temperatures of 32° to 37°C except for short-lived cooling by ~5°C during the final Ordovician stage. Evidence for ice sheets spans much of the study interval, but the cooling pulse coincided with a glacial maximum during which ice volumes likely equaled or exceeded those of the last (Pleistocene) glacial maximum. This cooling also coincided with a large perturbation of the carbon cycle and the Late Ordovician mass extinction.

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