Continental carbonate facies of a Neoproterozoic panglaciation, north-east Svalbard

Authors Organisations
  • Ian J. Fairchild(Author)
    University of Birmingham
  • Edward J. Fleming(Author)
    University Centre in Svalbard
    University of Birmingham
  • Huiming Bao(Author)
    Louisiana State University
  • Douglas I Benn(Author)
    University of St Andrews
    University Centre in Svalbard
  • Ian Boomer(Author)
    University of Birmingham
  • Yuri V. Dublyansky(Author)
    Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck
  • Galen P. Halverson(Author)
    University St. Montreal
  • Michael Hambrey(Author)
  • Chris Hendy(Author)
    University of Waikato
  • Emily A. Mcmillan(Author)
    University of Birmingham
  • Christoph Spötl(Author)
    Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck
  • Carl T. E. Stevenson(Author)
    University of Birmingham
  • Peter M. Wynn(Author)
    Lancaster University
Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-497
Issue number2
Early online date04 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 03 Mar 2016
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The Marinoan panglaciation (?650 to 635 Ma) is represented in north-east Svalbard by the 130 to 175 m thick Wilsonbreen Formation which contains syn-glacial carbonates in its upper 100 m. These sediments are now known to have been deposited under a CO2-rich atmosphere, late in the glaciation, and global climate models facilitate testing of proposed analogues. Precipitated carbonates occur in four of the seven facies associations identified: Fluvial Channel (including stromatolitic and intraclastic limestones in ephemeral stream deposits); Dolomitic Floodplain (dolomite-cemented sand and siltstones, and microbial dolomites); Calcareous Lake Margin (intraclastic dolomite and wave-rippled or aeolian siliciclastic facies); and Calcareous Lake (slump-folded and locally re-sedimented rhythmic/stromatolitic limestones and dolomites associated with ice-rafted sediment). There is no strong cyclicity, and modern analogues suggest that sudden changes in lake level may exert a strong control on facies geometry. Both calcite and dolomite in stromatolites and rhythmites display either primary or early diagenetic replacive growth. Oxygen isotope values (-12 to +15‰VPDB) broadly covary with δ13C. High δ13C values of +3.5 to +4.5‰ correspond to equilibration with an atmosphere dominated by volcanically degassed CO2 with δ13C of -6 to -7‰. Limestones have consistently negative δ18O values, whilst rhythmic and playa dolomites preserve intermediate compositions, and dolocretes possess slightly negative to strongly positive δ18O signatures, reflecting significant evaporation under hyperarid conditions. Inferred meltwater compositions (-8 to -15.5‰) could reflect smaller Rayleigh fractionation related to more limited cooling than in modern polar regions. A common pseudomorph morphology is interpreted as a replacement of ikaite (CaCO3.H2O), which may also have been the precursor for widespread replacive calcite mosaics. Local dolomitization of lacustrine facies is interpreted to reflect microenvironments with fluctuating redox conditions. Although differing in (palaeo)latitude and carbonate abundance, the Wilsonbreen carbonates provide strong parallels with the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica.


  • carbon isotopes, cryogenian, ikaite pseudomorphs, lacustrine, oxygen isotopes, Snowball Earth