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Rapid sea level rise in the aftermath of a Neoproterozoic snowball Earth

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Science  19 Apr 2018:
eaap8612
DOI: 10.1126/science.aap8612

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Abstract

Earth’s most severe climate changes occurred during global-scale snowball-Earth glaciations, which profoundly altered Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere. Extreme rates of glacio-eustatic sea-level rise are a fundamental prediction of the snowball Earth hypothesis, but supporting geologic evidence is lacking. We use paleohydraulic analysis of wave ripples and tidal laminae of the Elatina Formation, Australia — deposited following the Marinoan glaciation ca. 635Ma — to show that water depths of 9–16m remained nearly constant for ~100yrs throughout 27m of sediment accumulation. This accumulation rate was too great to have been accommodated by subsidence, and instead indicates an extraordinarily rapid rate of sea-level rise (0.2–0.27m/yr). Our results substantiate a fundamental prediction of snowball Earth models of rapid deglaciation during the early transition to a super-greenhouse climate.

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