Eolian Signal of the Onset of the Late Paleozoic Ice Age in North America Re-Deposited and Preserved As Paleo-Cave Sediments, Southwestern Colorado, U.S.a.

Monday, 15 December 2014
James E Evans, Bowling Green State University Main Campus, Department of Geology, Bowling Green, OH, United States and Michael J Soreghan, University of Oklahoma Norman Campus, School of Geology & Geophysics, Norman, OK, United States
The Molas Formation is a loessite consisting of reddish silt of Early Pennsylvanian (Bashkirian) age. U-Pb age spectra of accessory zircons indicate long-distance (>2000 km) transport from the Grenville province in northeastern North America plus sources from the peri-Gondwanan terranes in southeastern North America and local sources in the Ancestral Rocky Mountains uplift. These eolian sediments formed a blanket deposit <30 m thick above a paleokarst landscape in southwestern Colorado, infilling solution valleys and burying karst towers developed on the underlying Mississippian (Tournaisian-Visean) Leadville Limestone. The loessite is an eolian signal for the probable onset of glaciation at multiple locations in tectonically uplifted mountainous areas in North America. However, the loessite is easily eroded and has low preservation potential.

Prior to lithification, significant amounts of the loess were remobilized and transported into the underlying karst system. As paleo-cave deposits, encased in limestone and dolostone, the silt-rich deposits have a higher preservation potential, and the eolian signal of the onset of the Late Paleozoic Ice Age in North America is still recognizable. However, the following signal modification processes need to be understood: (1) source area weathering and pedogenesis; (2) land-atmosphere transfer processes; (3) deposition effects of paleotopography, vegetation and moisture conditions, and infiltration into open fractures and/or the matrix of colluvium; (4) remobilization by surface runoff into open fractures and/or groundwater piping/sapping processes in loess soils; (5) transport into vadose and phreatic karst passageways by episodic (“streamflood”) hydrologic events, forming event deposits (debrites, inundites, and jointites); (6) breakout dome collapse (forming interbedded cave sediments, karst breccias, and speleothems); (7) lithification and diagenesis; (8) post-lithification modification including pervasive hydrothermal mineralization; and (9) correctly recognizing the age of the signal.