Compositional Grading in an Impact-produced Spherule Bed, Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa: A Key to Condensation History of Rock Vapor CloudsThe chemical and physical processes by which spherules form during the condensation of impact-produced rock vapor clouds are poorly understood. Although efforts have been made to model the processes of spherule formation, there is presently a paucity of field data to constrain the resulting theoretical models. The present study examines the vertical compositional variability in a single early Archean spherule bed in the Barberton Greenstone Belt (BGB), South Africa, in order to better identify the process by which impact vapor clouds condense and spherules form and accumulate. The BGB spherule beds are suitable for this type of study because of their great thickness, often exceeding 25cm of pure spherules, due to the massive sizes of the impactors. Two main problems complicate analysis of vertical compositional variability of graded spherule beds: (1) differential settling of particles in both the vapor and water column due to density and size differences and (2) turbulence within the vapor cloud. The present study compares sections of spherule bed S3 from four different depositional environments in the Barberton Greenstone Belt: (1) The Sheba Mine section (SAF-381) was deposited under fairly low energy conditions in deep water, providing a nice fallout sequence, and also has abundant Ni-rich spinels; (2) Jay's Chert section (SAF-380) was deposited in subaerial to shallow-water conditions with extensive post-depositional reworking by currents. The spherules also have preserved spinels; (3) the Loop Road section (loc. SAF-295; samp. KSA-7) was moderately reworked and has only rare preservation of spinels; and (4) the shallow-water Barite Syncline section (loc. SAF-206; samp KSA-1) has few to no spinels preserved and is not reworked. Although all of the spherule beds have been altered by silica diagenesis and K-metasomatism, most of the compositional differences between these sections appear to reflect their diagenetic histories, possibly related to their differing depositional environments. Sulfate diagenesis in the Barite Syncline and Loop road sections may account for the loss of spinels.
Krull, A. E. (Stanford Univ. Stanford, CA, United States)
Lowe, D. R. (Stanford Univ. Stanford, CA, United States)
Byerly, G. R. (Louisiana State Univ. Baton Rouge, LA, United States)