Anomalously High Cretaceous Paleobrine Temperatures: Hothouse, Hydrothermal or Solar Heating?
MLR Key Laboratory of Metallogeny and Mineral Assessment, Institute of Mineral Resources, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Beijing 100037, China
Department of Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies, State University of New York, Binghamton, NY 13902, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Minerals 2017, 7(12), 245; https://doi.org/10.3390/min7120245
Received: 1 November 2017 / Revised: 9 December 2017 / Accepted: 9 December 2017 / Published: 13 December 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fluid Inclusions: Study Methods, Applications and Case Histories)
Elevated surface paleobrine temperatures (average 85.6 °C) are reported here from Cretaceous marine halites in the Maha Sarakham Formation, Khorat Plateau, Thailand. Fluid inclusions in primary subaqueous “chevron” and “cumulate” halites associated with potash salts contain daughter crystals of sylvite (KCl) and carnallite (MgCl2·KCl·6H2O). Petrographic textures demonstrate that these fluid inclusions were trapped from the warm brines in which the halite crystallized. Later cooling produced supersaturated conditions leading to the precipitation of sylvite and carnallite daughter crystals within fluid inclusions. Dissolution temperatures of daughter crystals in fluid inclusions from the same halite bed vary over a large range (57.9 °C to 117.2 °C), suggesting that halite grew at different temperatures within and at the bottom of the water column. Consistency of daughter crystal dissolution temperatures within fluid inclusion bands and the absence of vapor bubbles at room temperature demonstrate that fluid inclusions have not stretched or leaked. Daughter crystal dissolution temperatures are reproducible to within 0.1 °C to 10.2 °C (average of 1.8 °C), and thus faithfully document paleobrine conditions. Microcrystalline hematite incorporated within halite crystals also indicate high paleobrine temperatures. We conclude that halite crystallized from warm brines rich in K-Mg-Na-Cl; sylvite and carnallite daughter crystals were nucleated during cooling of the warm brines sometime after deposition. Hothouse, hydrothermal, and solar-heating hypotheses are compared to explain the anomalously high surface paleobrine temperatures. Solar radiation stored in shallow density stratified brines is the most plausible explanation for the observed paleobrine temperatures and the progressively higher temperatures downward through the paleobrine column. The solar-heating hypothesis may also explain high paleobrine temperatures documented from fluid inclusions in other ancient halites.