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University of Leicester geologists demonstrate extent of ancient ice age
Date:6/16/2009

Geologists at the University of Leicester have shown that an ancient Ice Age, once regarded as a brief 'blip', in fact lasted for 30 million years.

They have published their findings and are due to discuss them at a public lecture at the University on Wednesday June 17.

Their research suggests that during this ancient Ice Age, global warming was curbed through the burial of organic carbon that eventually lead to the formation of oil including the 'hot shales' of north Africa and Arabia which constitute the world's most productive oil source rock.

This ice age has been named 'the Early Palaeozoic Icehouse' by Dr Alex Page and his colleagues in a paper published as part of a collaborative Deep Time Climate project between the University of Leicester and British Geological Survey.

The Ice Age occurred in the Ordovician and Silurian Periods of geological time (part of the Early Palaeozoic Era), an interval that witnessed a major diversification of early marine animals including trilobites and primitive fish as well as the emergence of the first land plants.

The Early Palaeozoic climate had long been considered characterised by essentially greenhouse conditions with elevated atmospheric CO2 and warm temperatures extending to high latitudes, and only brief snaps of frigid climate. However, during his doctoral studies in the internationally renowned Palaeobiology Research Group of the University of Leicester, Department of Geology, Alex Page and his colleagues Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams demonstrated how the ice age was probably of much longer duration.

The team demonstrated that the Late Ordovician and Early Silurian Epochs were characterised by widespread ice formation, with changes in the extent of continental glaciation resulting in rapid sea level changes around the globe.

They compared evidence of sea level change from the rock record of ancient coastlines with evidence of sedimen
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Contact: Alex Page
aap30@esc.cam.ac.uk
University of Leicester
Source:Eurekalert

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