Conditions of meteoric calcite formation along a Variscan fault and their possible relation to climatic evolution during the Jurassic–Cretaceous

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Abstract

Two calcite cements, filling karst cavities and replacing Lower Carboniferous limestones at the Variscan Front Thrust, were precipitated after mid-Jurassic Cimmerian uplift and subsequent erosion but before late Cretaceous strike-slip movement. The first calcite (stage A) is nonferroan and crystals are coated by hematite and/or goethite. These minerals also occur as inclusions along growth zones. The calcite lattice contains < 0·07 mol.% Fe, but Mn concentrations can be as high as 0·72 mol.% in bright yellow luminescent zones. Primary, originally one-phase, all-liquid, aqueous inclusions have a final melting temperature between −0·2° and +0·2 °C, indicating a meteoric origin of the ambient water. The δ13C and δ18O values of the calcites are between −7·3‰ and −6·3‰, −7·8‰ and −5·5‰ on the Vienna PeeDee Belemnite (VPDB) scale, respectively. The second calcite (stage B) consists of ferroan (0·13–0·84 mol.% Fe) blocky crystals with Mn concentrations between 0·34 and 0·87 mol.%. Primary, single-phase aqueous fluid inclusions indicate precipitation from a meteoric fluid below 50 °C . The δ13C values of stage B calcites vary between −7·3‰ and −2·1‰ VPDB and the δ18O values between −7·9‰ and −7·2‰ VPDB. A precipitation temperature below 50 °C for the stage A calcites and the presence of iron oxide/hydroxide inclusions in the crystals indicate near-surface precipitation conditions. Within this setting, the geochemistry of the nonferroan stage A calcites reflects precipitation under oxic to suboxic conditions. The ferroan stage B calcites precipitated in a reducing environment. The evolution from the stage A to stage B calcites and the associated geochemical changes are interpreted to be related to the change from semiarid to humid conditions in western Europe during late Jurassic–Cretaceous times. A change in humidity can explain the evolution of groundwater from oxic/suboxic to reducing conditions during calcite precipitation. The typically higher δ13C values of the stage B compared to the stage A calcites can be explained by a smaller contribution of carbon derived from soil-zone processes than from carbonate dissolution in the groundwater under humid conditions. The small shift to lower δ18O between stage A and B calcites may be caused by a higher precipitation temperature or a decrease in the δ18O value of the meteoric water. This decrease could have been caused by a change in the source of the air masses or by an increase in the amount of rainfall during the early mid-Cretaceous. Although the latter interpretation is preferred, it cannot be proven.

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