What is the oldest glacier in the world found in South Africa?

KOMPAS.com – The oldest glaciers in the world are under the largest gold mines on the planet, namely in South Africa.

Findings of this ancient glacier also provide convincing evidence of the ecological conditions of the ancient Earth.

This is due to the fact that the exact conditions of the Earth during this period are still not widely known. But the remains of a 2.9 billion-year-old glacier may be evidence of the conditions of that period.

Found the remains of an ancient glacier

In a Live Science report Sunday (7/23/2023), as part of this study, scientists excavated sediments and analyzed core samples at an ancient glacier site in northeast South Africa.

The site is part of the Pongola Supergroup, thick volcanic and sedimentary rocks that formed during the Mesoarchean era (3.2 to 2.8 billion years ago).

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The researchers then discovered glacial deposits indicating that these glaciers are quite old and very well preserved near the gold mines in South Africa.

“This is one of the few areas that has remained untouched and unchanged since the origin of the Earth,” said Ilya Bindeman, professor of isotope geochemistry and volcanology at the University of Oregon.

To determine the climatic conditions that existed during the formation of the deposits, the scientists used a technique called triple oxygen isotope analysis, in which they measured the three different forms of oxygen present in the deposits.

As a result, the researchers found that the levels of certain isotopes in the samples were consistent with common isotopes in icy climates.

The discovery of ancient glacial material, or the world’s oldest glaciers, may ultimately provide insight into Earth’s past climate and geography.

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The discovery of this oldest glacier provides a clue. According to one theory, South Africa could have been near one of the Earth’s poles 2.9 billion years ago.

“Another possibility is that the entire Earth was in an Earth snowball period, when low concentrations in the atmosphere (greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane) caused a “reverse greenhouse effect,” causing large parts of the planet to freeze,” explained Axel Hofmann, professor of geology at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa.

“If so, this would be the earliest period of global cooling on record,” he added.

While there are other possible theories, more research is needed to truly understand the climate of the world billions of years ago.

“This is a gradual progress in understanding the environment of the early Earth, climate change in the early history of the Earth, etc. But we still do not know the extent of this cold climate, whether it was localized or extended to lower latitudes around the world,” said Andrei Becker, professor of geology at the University of California at Riverside, who was not involved in the study.

Findings of the world’s oldest glacier in South Africa have been published in Geochemical Perspectives Letters.

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