Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Sedimentary constraints on the duration of the Marinoan Oxygen-17 Depletion (MOSD) event.

PMID 23386719


The ~635 Ma Marinoan glaciation is marked by dramatic Earth system perturbations. Deposition of nonmass-dependently (17)O-depleted sulfate (SO4(2-)) in worldwide postglacial sediments is, thus far, unique to this glaciation. It is proposed that an extremely high-pCO2 atmosphere can result in highly (17)O-depleted atmospheric O2, or the Marinoan Oxygen-17 Depletion (MOSD) event. This anomalous (17)O signal was imparted to sulfate of oxidative weathering origin. However, (17)O-depleted sulfate occurs in limited sedimentary intervals, suggesting that Earth surface conditions conducive to the MOSD had a finite duration. An MOSD duration can, therefore, provide much needed constraint on modeling Earth system responses at that time. Unfortunately, the sulfate (17)O record is often sparse or lacks radiometric dates. Here, we report 11 barite layers from a post-Marinoan dolostone sequence at Wushanhu in the South China Block. The (17)O depletion fluctuates in magnitude in lower layers but is persistently absent up section, providing the most confident first and last sedimentary appearance of the anomaly. δ(13)C chemostratigraphy is used to correlate the Wushanhu section to two proximal sections on the same shallow platform that lack barite layers but have published U-Pb dates that occur in dolostone and shale. Assuming a similar pattern and rate for carbonate and shale deposition among the different sections, we estimate the MOSD duration at 0-0.99 My. This number can be further constrained by new radiometric dates from equivalent sequences worldwide, thus underpinning models on the nonsteady-state Earth system response in the immediate aftermath of the Marinoan meltdown.