During the Cryogenian (720 to 635 Ma ago) Snowball Earth glaciations, ice extended to sea level near the equator. The cause of this catastrophic failure of Earth’s thermostat has been unclear, but previous geochronology has suggested a rough coincidence of glacial onset with one of the largest magmatic episodes in the geological record, the Franklin large igneous province. U-Pb geochronology on zircon and baddeleyite from sills associated with the paleo-equatorial Franklin large igneous province in Arctic Canada record rapid emplacement between 719.86 ± 0.21 and 718.61 ± 0.30 Ma ago, 0.9 to 1.6 Ma before the onset of widespread glaciation. Geologic observations and (U-Th)/He dates on Franklin sills are compatible with major post–Franklin exhumation, possibly due to development of mafic volcanic highlands on windward equatorial Laurentia and increased global weatherability. After a transient magmatic CO2 flux, long-term carbon sequestration associated with increased weatherability could have nudged Earth over the threshold for runaway ice-albedo feedback.
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Pu, Judy P.; Macdonald, Francis A.; Schmitz, Mark D.; Rainbird, Robert H.; Bleeker, Wouter; Peak, Barra A.; . . . and Hamilton, Michael A. (2022). "Emplacement of the Franklin Large Igneous Province and Initiation of the Sturtian Snowball Earth". Science Advances, 8(47), eadc9430. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.adc9430