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Sedimentary facies of a glacially influenced continental succession in the Pennsylvanian Jericho Formation, Galilee Basin, Australia

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Abstract

Recent work on the Late Palaeozoic Ice Age in eastern Australia has shown the Joe Joe Group in the eastern Galilee Basin, Queensland, to be of critical importance as it is one of few records of Pennsylvanian glacial activity outside South America. This paper presents detailed sedimentological data, from which the Late Palaeozoic environment of the region is reconstructed and which, consequently, allows for robust comment on the broader Gondwanan glaciation. The Jericho Formation, in the lower Joe Joe Group, was deposited in an active extensional basin in lacustrine to fluvial environments, during the mid-Namurian to early Stephanian. The region experienced a cool climate during this time, and polythermal mountain or valley-type glaciers periodically advanced into the area from highlands to the north-east. The Jericho Formation preserves a suite of proglacial to terminal glacial facies that is characterized by massive and stratified diamictites deposited from debris flows, massive and horizontally laminated conglomerates and sandstones deposited from hyperconcentrated density flows, laminated siltstones with outsized clasts and interlaminated siltstone/conglomerate deposited through ice-rafting into lakes, and sedimentary dykes and breccias deposited through overpressurization of groundwater beneath permafrost. Non-glacial facies are dominated by fluvial sandstones and lacustrine/overbank siltstones. The glacigenic rocks of the Jericho Formation are confined to discrete packages, recording three separate glacial advances during the latest Namurian to late Westphalian. This arrangement is consistent with the temporal distribution of glacigenic rocks from around the remainder of Australia and Gondwana, which supports the theory that glacial deposits occurred in discrete intervals. The Joe Joe Group is a key succession in the world in this context as, at this time, eastern Australia provides the only unequivocal evidence of a Namurian/Westphalian glaciation outside South America. The continuous record of sedimentation through the Pennsylvanian and Early Permian is indicative of significant warming between glacial intervals, which is difficult to reconcile with the development of long-lived, cold-based ice sheets across the supercontinent.

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