The end-cryogenian glaciation of South Australia

Catherine V. Rose, Adam C. Maloof, Blair Schoene, Ryan C. Ewing, Ulf Linnemann, Mandy Hofmann, John M. Cottle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The Elatina Fm. records the younger Cryogenian ice age in the Adelaide Rift Complex (ARC) of South Australia, which has long-held the position as the type region for this low-latitude glaciation. Building upon a legacy of work, we document the pre- and syn-glacial sedimentary rocks to characterize the dynamics of the glaciation across the ARC. The Elatina Fm. records an array of well-preserved glacial facies at many different water depths across the basin, including ice contact tillites, fluvioglacial sandstones, dropstone intervals, tidal rhythmites with combinedflow ripples, and turbidites. The underlying Yaltipena Fm. records the proglacial influx of sediment from encroaching land-based ice sheets. The onset of the glaciation is heralded by the major element ratios (Chemical Index of Alteration) of the pre-glacial facies across the platform that show a reduction in chemical weathering and a deterioration in climate towards the base of the Elatina Fm. The advancing ice sheets caused soft-sediment deformation of the beds below the glacial diamictite, including sub-glacial push structures, as well as sub-glacial erosion of the carbonate unit beneath. Measured stratigraphic sections across the basin show glacial erosion up to 130 m into the carbonate platform. However, δ13C measurements of carbonate clasts within the glacial diamictite units were used to assess provenance and relative timing of δ13C acquisition, and suggest that at least 500 m of erosion occurred somewhere in the basin. Detrital zircon provenance data from the Elatina Fm. suggest that glacial sediment may have been partially sourced from the cratons of Western Australia and that the Whyalla Sandstone, even if stratigraphically correlative, was not a sediment source. The remainder of the Elatina Fm. stratigraphy mostly records the deglaciation and can be divided into three facies: a slumped sandstone, dropstone diamictite, and currentreworked diamictite. The relative sea level fall within the upper Elatina Fm. requires that regional deglaciation occurred on the timescale of ice sheet - ocean gravitational interactions (instant) and/or isostatic rebound (~104 years). Structures previously interpreted as soft-sediment folds within the rhythmite facies that were used to constrain the low-latitude position of South Australia at the time of the Elatina glaciation are re-interpreted as stoss-depositional transverse ripples with superimposed oscillatory wave ripples. These combined-flow ripples across the ARC attest to open seas with significant fetch during the initial retreat of local glaciers. In addition, this interpretation no longer requires that the magnetization be syn-depositional, although we have no reason to believe that the low-latitude direction is a result of remagnetization, and positive reversal tests and tectonic fold tests are at least consistent with syndepositional magnetization. Together, these paired sedimentological and chemostratigraphic observations reveal the onset of the glaciation and advance of the ice sheet from land to create a heavily glaciated terrain that was incised down to at least the base of the pre-glacial Trezona Fm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-293
Number of pages38
JournalGeoscience Canada
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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