Early Earth atmosphere loaded with greenhouse gases, study finds

Greenhouse gases contribute to the glittering beauty of Venus in our night sky and are the source of many fears about global disaster, but 2.7 billion years ago, these same gases may well have helped to warm the early earth and contribute to early life, according to University of Washington researchers led by Sanjoy Som, who is currently a post-doctoral researcher at NASA's Ames Research Center.

If any group has more reason to complain about harsh news coverage than Republican candidates, it's probably scientists, especially those who are involved in atmospheric research, astrophysics, nanotechnology or bio-genetics. Headlines around the world covering the University of Washington study read "Study: Early Atmosphere Loaded With Greenhouse Gases." This is, of course, not the primary outcome of the research, which compared fossilized raindrop impressions found in 2.7 billion-year-old volcanic ash from South Africa to contemporary experiments conducted on recent volcanic ash from Hawaii and Iceland.

2.7 billion years ago, microbial life was present on Earth, but no plants and animals had yet appeared. The sun was about 30% cooler than it is today, and earth would be expected to be a frozen ice cube, but it wasn't. Liquid water was abundant. Prior to the research conducted by Dr. Som and his colleagues, scientists theorized that earth's atmospheric pressure was significantly higher during this period, leading to the warmer-than-expected climate. The University of Washington researchers compared the ancient raindrop impression to current impressions, discovering that ancient atmospheric pressure was similar to today's; thus, the warmer climate was likely to have been produced by a thick layer of protective greenhouse gases. According to Dr. Som, early Earth was very different from today's earth.

The University of Washington study shows that we are learning something new about the world we live in almost every day. A review of several articles on climate science shows that today's CO2 levels are higher than 2.1 million years ago, 15 million years ago, or 3 million years ago.

Or during the entire Carboniferous period ... 286-360 million years ago, the time when today's fossil fuels were created. Even basic climate change courses cover the carbon cycle, of which human activities are a part, and far from the whole. What can people learn from today's science report? Our planet is far more complex than any movie or article can cover and we still have a lot to learn.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Amy Sterling Casil

I am a professional writer and college teacher. My most recent book is Female Science Fiction Writer (http://www.amazon.com/Female-Science-Fiction-Writer-ebook/dp/B008E95D2E) a major short fiction collection. I am a 5th generation Southern California native, and have a colorful heritage in my mother's and my father's families. I have a huge, wonderful exuberant family, including a beautiful daughter and I am very grateful for every opportunity I have had. I have a Jack Russell Terrier named Gambit (Badger died, Gambit is a new rescue) and have always disliked rubber bands. I'm an old school Republican by registration but probably a Libertarian in sentiment. I have a very varied professional background and have been known to raise a few funds in my day. I should add that I am award-nominated fiction writer, have published 26 books, and have two BAs from Scripps College, Claremont, CA and an MFA from Chapman University, Orange, CA. I do professional business consulting and planning and am Founder and CEO of Pacific Human Capital.

MORE FROM

Grenfell Tower Fire: Police say blaze started in a refrigerator

Police say a fridge was the cause of the deadly fire.

North Korea denies mistreatment of US captive Otto Warmbier

The country claimed Warmbier's death was a "mystery."

Twin bombings in Pakistan market kill at least 15

This story is breaking.

Federal judge blocks deportations of Iraqi Christians

The ACLU celebrated the decision as a "life-saving action" temporarily keeping Chaldean Christians from facing religious persecution in Iraq.

Johnny Depp jokes about assassinating Donald Trump

"It's been a while," Depp said, "and maybe it's time."

Trump says he finds special counsel Mueller's relationship with James Comey "bothersome"

Trump says "virtually everybody agrees" that there's been no collusion or obstruction of justice.

Grenfell Tower Fire: Police say blaze started in a refrigerator

Police say a fridge was the cause of the deadly fire.

North Korea denies mistreatment of US captive Otto Warmbier

The country claimed Warmbier's death was a "mystery."

Twin bombings in Pakistan market kill at least 15

This story is breaking.

Federal judge blocks deportations of Iraqi Christians

The ACLU celebrated the decision as a "life-saving action" temporarily keeping Chaldean Christians from facing religious persecution in Iraq.

Johnny Depp jokes about assassinating Donald Trump

"It's been a while," Depp said, "and maybe it's time."

Trump says he finds special counsel Mueller's relationship with James Comey "bothersome"

Trump says "virtually everybody agrees" that there's been no collusion or obstruction of justice.