Postprint version. Published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 207, Issue 1-4, February 1, 2003, pages 13-22.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Gary Hughes was not yet affiliated with Cal Poly.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/S0012-821X(02)01155-X.
Rhythmically deposited argillites of the Gowganda Formation (ca. 2.0–2.5 Ga) probably formed in a glacial setting. Drop stones and layered sedimentary couplets in the rock presumably indicate formation in a lacustrine environment with repeating freeze–thaw cycles. It is plausible that temporal variations in the thickness of sedimentary layers are related to interannual climatic variability, e.g. average seasonal temperature could have influenced melting and the amount of sediment source material carried to the lake. A sequence of layer couplet thickness measurements was made from high-resolution digitized photographs taken at an outcrop in southern Ontario, Canada. The frequency spectrum of thickness measurements displays patterns that resemble some aspects of modern climate. Coherent periodic modes in the thickness spectrum appear at 9.9–10.7 layer couplets and at 14.3 layer couplets. It is unlikely that these coherent modes result from random processes. Modern instrument records of regional temperature and rainfall display similar spectral patterns, with some datasets showing significant modes near 14 yr in both parameters. Rainfall and temperature could have affected sedimentary layering in the Gowganda argillite sequence, and climate modulation of couplet thickness emerges as the most likely explanation of the observed layering pattern. If this interpretation is correct, the layer couplets represent predominantly annual accumulations of sediment (i.e. they are varves), and the thickness spectrum provides a glimpse of Early Proterozoic climatic variability. The presence of interannual climate patterns is not unanticipated, but field evidence presented here may be of some value in developing a climate theory for the Early Proterozoic.
Statistics and Probability