Encyclopedia of Paleoclimatology and Ancient Environments

2009 Edition
| Editors: Vivien Gornitz

Banded Iron Formations and The Early Atmosphere

  • Bruce M. Simonson
  • Alan J. Kaufman
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4411-3_19

IRON FORMATIONS, a class of chemical sediments comparable to evaporites or phosphorites, occur on all continental cratons and represent the largest repositories of iron ever precipitated from Earth’s hydrosphere (Trendall and Morris, 1983; Clout and Simonson, 2005). Iron formations reveal much about the composition of the atmosphere because of the redox sensitivity of iron in solution, and because of the dramatic change in the way iron was deposited through geologic time. The first-order observations are that Precambrian iron-rich sediments (known as iron formations) are generally cherty, thinly laminated (or banded), and widespread, whereas Phanerozoic iron-rich sediments (known as IRONSTONES) generally lack chert and are richer in aluminum (reflecting clastic contamination), not laminated, and smaller in areal extent. In order to make correct inferences about temporal changes in Earth’s atmosphere, iron formations must first be understood as chemical sediments.


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© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce M. Simonson
  • Alan J. Kaufman

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