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The Great Oxidation Event preceded a Paleoproterozoic "snowball Earth"

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Abstract

The inability to resolve the exact temporalrelationship between two pivotal events in Earth history, the PaleoproterozoicGreat Oxidation Event (GOE) and the first ‘snowball Earth’ global glaciation,has precluded assessing causality between changing atmospheric composition andancient climate change. Here we present temporally resolved quadruple sulfurisotope measurements (δ34S, ∆33S and ∆36S)from the Paleoproterozoic Seidorechka and Polisarka Sedimentary Formations onthe Fennoscandian Shield, NW Russia, that address this issue. Sulfides in theformer preserve evidence of mass-independent fractionation of sulfur isotopes(S-MIF) falling within uncertainty of the Archean Reference Array with a ∆36S/∆33Sslope of -1.8 and have small negative ∆33S values, whereas in thelatter mass-dependent fractionation of sulfur isotopes (S-MDF) is evident, witha ∆36S/∆33S slope of -8.8. These trends, combined withgeochronological constraints, place the S-MIF/S-MDF transition, the keyindicator of the GOE, between 2501.5± 1.7 Ma and 2434 ± 6.6 Ma. These are the tightest temporal andstratigraphic constraints yet for the S-MIF/S-MDF transition and show that itstiming in Fennoscandia is consistent with the S-MIF/S-MDF transition in NorthAmerica and South Africa. Further, the glacigenic part of the PolisarkaFormation occurs 60 m above the sedimentary succession containing S-MDFsignals. Hence, our findings confirm unambiguously that the S-MIF/S-MDFtransition preceded the Paleoproterozoic ‘snowball Earth’. Resolution of thistemporal relationship constrains cause-and-effect drivers of Earth’soxygenation, specifically ruling out conceptual models in which globalglaciation precedes or causes the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis.
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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date1 Jun 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jun 2020

    Research areas

  • Quadruple sulfur isotopes, Mass independent fractionation, Great Oxidation Event, Snowball Earth

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