Mobility of Pangea: Implications for Late Paleozoic and Early Mesozoic paleoclimate


Several recent analyses of paleomagnetic data support the concept of Pangea, an assemblage of most of the world‘s continents that was mobile in terms of large-scale internal deformation and with respect to paleolatitude. The main feature of internal deformation involved the transformation from a Pangea B—type configuration in the late Paleozoic, with northwestern South America adjacent to eastern North America, to a more traditional Pangea A—type configuration in the early Mesozoic, with northwestern Africa adjacent to eastern North America. Pangea B thus seems to coincide in time with extensive low-latitude coal deposition and high southern-latitude Gondwana glaciations, whereas Pangea A coincides with generally drier conditions over the continents and no polar ice sheets. Although the configuration of Pangea may have been more stable as an A-type configuration in the Early and Middle Jurassic prior to breakup, the paleomagnetic evidence suggests that there was appreciable latitudinal change of the assembly. Such changing tectonic boundary conditions emphasize the practical importance of age registry of paleoclimate data in making valid comparisons with model results. A simple zonal climate model coupled with the geocentric axial dipole hypothesis for establishing paleolatitudes in precisely controlled paleogeographic reconstructions can explain many of the climate patterns in both the late Paleozoic and the early Mesozoic, but it cannot explain the presence or absence of continental ice sheets

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