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  1. Abstract Paleo-loess and silty eolian-marine strata are well recognized across the Carboniferous-Permian of equatorial Pangaea. Eolian-transported dust and loess appear in the late Devonian in the west, are common by the Late Carboniferous, and predominate across equatorial Pangaea by the Permian. The thickest loess deposits in Earth history –>1000 m− date from this time, and archive unusually dusty equatorial conditions, especially compared to the dearth of equatorial dust in the Cenozoic. Loess archives a confluence of silt generation, eolian emission and transport, and ultimate accumulation in dust traps that included ephemerally wet surfaces and epeiric seas. Orogenic belts sourced the silt, and mountain glaciation may have exacerbated voluminous silt production, but remains controversial. In western Pangaea, large rivers transported silt westward, and floodplain deflation supplied silt for loess and dust. Expansion of dust deposition in Late Pennsylvanian time records aridification that progressed across Pangaea, from west to east. Contemporaneous volcanism may have created acidic atmospheric conditions to enhance nutrient reactivity of dusts, affecting Earth’s carbon cycle. The late Paleozoic was Earth’s largest and most long-lived dust bowl, and this dust represents both an archive and agent of climate and climate change. Supplementary material at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.6299508
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 27, 2023
  2. Earth has sustained continental glaciation several times in its past. Because continental glaciers ground to low elevations, sedimentary records of ice contact can be preserved from regions that were below base level, or subject to subsidence. In such regions, glaciated pavements, ice-contact deposits such as glacial till with striated clasts, and glaciolacustrine or glaciomarine strata with dropstones reveal clear signs of former glaciation. But assessing upland (mountain) glaciation poses particular challenges because elevated regions typically erode, and thus have extraordinarily poor preservation potential. Here we propose approaches for detecting the former presence of glaciation in the absence or near-absence of ice-contact indicators; we apply this specifically to the problem of detecting upland glaciation, and consider the implications for Earth’s climate system. Where even piedmont regions are eroded, pro- and periglacial phenomena will constitute the primary record of upland glaciation. Striations on large (pebble and larger) clasts survive only a few km of fluvial transport, but microtextures developed on quartz sand survive longer distances of transport, and record high-stress fractures consistent with glaciation. Proglacial fluvial systems can be difficult to distinguish from non-glacial systems, but a preponderance of facies signaling abundant water and sediment, such as hyperconcentrated flood flows, non-cohesive fine-grainedmore »debris flows, and/or large-scale and coarse-grained cross-stratification are consistent with proglacial conditions, especially in combination with evidence for cold temperatures, such as rip-up clasts composed of noncohesive sediment, indicating frozen conditions, and/or evidence for a predominance of physical over chemical weathering. Other indicators of freezing (periglacial) conditions include frozen-ground phenomena such as fossil ice wedges and ice crystals. Voluminous loess deposits and eolian-marine silt/mudstone characterized by silt modes, a significant proportion of primary silicate minerals, and a provenance from non-silt precursors can indicate the operation of glacial grinding, even though such deposits may be far removed from the site(s) of glaciation. Ultimately, in the absence of unambiguous ice-contact indicators, inferences of glaciation must be grounded on an array of observations that together record abundant meltwater, temperatures capable of sustaining glaciation, and glacial weathering (e.g., glacial grinding). If such arguments are viable, they can bolster the accuracy of past climate models, and guide climate modelers in assessing the types of forcings that could enable glaciation at elevation, as well as the extent to which (extensive) upland glaciation might have influenced global climate.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 8, 2023
  3. Abstract Delicate impressions in lacustrine strata of the lower Permian (lower Cisuralian) Usclas Formation record ephemeral freezing in equatorial Pangea. These sediments accumulated in the paleoequatorial and intramontane Lodève Basin (southern Massif Central, France) during peak icehouse conditions of the Late Paleozoic Ice Age. Experimental replication of these features supports the interpretation that they are ice-crystal molds. Evidence for films of ice in marginal-lacustrine sediment at such low latitudes and inferred low to moderate altitudes (1–2 km) calls for a reevaluation of climate conditions in eastern equatorial Pangea. Ephemeral freezing implies either cold tropical temperatures (~5 °C cooler than the Last Glacial Maximum) and/or lapse rates that exceeded those of the Last Glacial Maximum. Extreme continentality of the Lodève Basin would have amplified seasonality, albeit the climatic forcing(s) necessary to have promoted cold temperatures in equatorial Pangea remain enigmatic.
  4. Abstract Carboniferous–Permian strata in basins within the Central Pangean Mountains in France archive regional paleoequatorial climate during a unique interval in geological history (Pangea assembly, ice-age collapse, megamonsoon inception). The voluminous (∼1.5 km) succession of exclusively fine-grained red beds that comprises the Permian Salagou Formation (Lodève Basin, France) has long been interpreted to record either lacustrine or fluvial deposition, primarily based on a local emphasis of subaqueous features in the upper ∼25% of the section. In contrast, data presented here indicate that the lower-middle Salagou Formation is dominated by up to 15-m-thick beds of internally massive red mudstone with abundant pedogenic features (microscale) and no evidence of channeling. Up-section, limited occurrences of ripple and hummocky cross-stratification, and mudcracks record the intermittent influence of shallow water, but with no channeling nor units with grain sizes exceeding coarse silt. These data suggest that the most parsimonious interpretation for the Salagou Formation involves eolian transport of the sediment and ultimate deposition as loess in shallow, ephemeral lacustrine environments. Provenance analyses of the Salagou Formation indicate coarse-grained protoliths and, together with geochemical proxies (chemical index of alteration [CIA] and τNa) that correspond respectively to a low degree of chemical weathering and a mean annualmore »temperature of ∼4 °C, suggest that silt generation in this case is most consistent with cold-weathering (glacial and associated periglacial) processes in the Variscan highlands. Together with previous studies that detailed voluminous Permian loess in western equatorial Pangea, this work shows a globally unique distribution of dust at low latitudes that can be linked either directly to glaciated alpine terranes or to reworked and deflated deposits of other types (e.g., fluvial outwash) where fine-grained material was originally generated from glacial grinding in alpine systems. These results further support a revised model for early Permian climate, in which extratropical ice sheets coexisted with a semiarid tropics that may have hosted significant ice at moderate elevation.« less
  5. Permocarboniferous strata of basins proximal to the Central Pangaean Mountains in France archive regional paleoequatorial climate during a unique interval in geological history (late Paleozoic Pangaean assembly, ice age collapse, megamonsoon inception). The voluminous (estimated 2 km) succession of exclusively fine-grained redbeds that composes the Permian Salagou Formation (Lodéve Basin, France) has been interpreted as recording either lacustrine or fluvial settings. We present preliminary field data to explore the hypothesis that these deposits record eolian transport, and ultimate deposition as either loess or in a shallow lacustrine environment. Fieldwork includes ~1000 m of section described at dm-scale, and magnetic susceptibility measured at 0.5 m intervals, from sections strategically located in both proximal and distal areas, and from all stratigraphic levels of the unit to assess spatial and temporal variations. These data indicate that the lower and middle Salagou Formation is dominated by internally massive, red mud-siltstone with no evidence of channeling. Up-section, a higher frequency of ripples, rare hummocky cross stratification, and mudcracks record the presence of shallow water, but with no channeling, nor units of grain size exceeding very fine-grained sand. Randomly-oriented slickensides at various localities in the mid-upper Salagou may represent incipient pedogenesis. The lack of evidence formore »channels and other fluvial features casts doubt on a fluvial interpretation. A lacustrine interpretation is consistent with local evidence of shallow water. However, in the absence of fluvial transport indicators, large volumes of entirely fine-grained material that were delivered to the Lodéve basin call for eolian transport, and thus a loess or shallow lacustrine interpretation. The documentation of voluminous paleoloess in eastern equatorial Pangea during the Permian could reflect the influence of glaciation associated with the Variscan highlands. Together with previous studies that detail Permian loess in western equatorial Pangea, this work impacts our understandingof the global Late Paleozoic climate system and presents a need to reevaluate modeling parameters (e.g. equatorial mountain glaciation, atmospheric dust loading).« less