Origin & Evolution of Life

The Case for a Hot Archean Climate and its Implications to the History of the Biosphere

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
April 2, 2015
Filed under
The Case for a Hot Archean Climate and its Implications to the History of the Biosphere
Early Earth

The oxygen isotope record in sedimentary chert and the compelling case for a near constant isotopic oxygen composition of seawater over geologic time support thermophilic surface temperatures prevailing in the Archean, with some support for hot conditions lasting until about 1.5 billion years ago, aside from lower temperatures including glacial episodes at 2.1-2.4 Ga and possibly an earlier one at 2.9 Ga.

Other evidence includes the following:

1) Melting temperatures of proteins resurrected from sequences inferred from robust molecular phylogenies give paleotemperatures at emergence consistent with a very warm early climate.

2) High atmospheric pCO2 levels in the Archean are consistent with high climatic temperatures near the triple point of primary iron minerals in banded iron formations, the formation of Mn-bicarbonate clusters leading to oxygenic photosynthesis and generally higher weathering intensities on land. These higher weathering intensities would not have occurred if seafloor weathering dominated the carbon sink, pulling down the temperature, hence this empirical evidence supports a hot climate and high carbon dioxide levels.

3) The inferred viscosity of seawater at 2.7 Ga is consistent with a hot Archean climate.

5) A cold Archean is hard to explain taking into account the higher outgassing rates of carbon dioxide, significantly smaller land areas and weaker biotic enhancement of weathering than present in the context of the long-term carbon cycle, taking into account the fainter Archean sun in climate modeling. This evidence points to an important conclusion regarding biological evolution, namely to the critical role of a temperature constraint holding back the emergence of major organismal groups, starting with phototrophs, culminating with metazoans in the latest Precambrian.

David W. Schwartzman (Submitted on 1 Apr 2015)

Comments: 25 pages, 4 figures

Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)

Cite as: arXiv:1504.00401 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:1504.00401v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)

Submission history From: David Schwartzman W [view email] [v1] Wed, 1 Apr 2015 21:57:30 GMT (665kb) http://arxiv.org/abs/1504.00401

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