"The rise of oxygen allowed for the evolution of complex oxygen-breathing life forms," says Lee R. Kump, professor of geoscience, Penn State.
Before 2.5 billion years ago, the Earth's atmosphere lacked oxygen. However, biomarkers in rocks 200 million years older than that period, show oxygen-producing cyanobacteria released oxygen at the same levels as today. The oxygen produced then, had to be going somewhere.
"The absence of oxidized soil profiles and red beds indicates that oxidative weathering rates were negligible during the Archaean," the researchers report in today's (Aug. 30) issue of Nature.
The ancient Earth should have had an oxygen atmosphere but something was converting, reducing, the oxygen and removing it from the atmosphere. The researchers suggest that submarine volcanoes, producing a reducing mixture of gases and lavas, effectively scrubbed oxygen from the atmosphere, binding it into oxygen containing minerals.
"The Archaean more than 2.5 billion years ago seemed to be dominated by submarine volcanoes," says Kump. "Subaerial andesite volcanoes on thickened continental crust seem to be almost absent in the Archaean."
About 2.5 billion years ago at the Archaean/Proterozoic boundary, when stabilized continental land masses arose and terrestrial volcanoes appeared, markers show that oxygen began appearing in the atmosphere.
Kump and Mark E. Barley, professor of geology, University of Western Australia, looked at the geologic record from the Archaean and the Palaeoproterozoic in search of the remains of volcanoes. They found that the Archaean was nearly devoid of terrestrial volcanoes, but heavily populated by submarine volcanoes. The Palaeoproterozoic, however, had ample terrestrial volcanic activity along with continuing submarine vulcanism. Subaerial volcanoes arose after 2.5 billion years ago and did not strip oxygen from the air. Having a mix of volcanoes dominated by terrestrial volcanoes allowed oxygen to exist in the atmosphere.
Terrestrial volcanoes could become much more common in the Palaeoproterozoic because land masses stabilized and the current tectonic regime came into play.
The researchers looked at the ratio of submarine to subaerial volcanoes through time. Because submarine volcanoes erupt at lower temperatures than terrestrial volcanoes, they are more reducing. As long as the reducing ability of the submarine volcanoes was larger than the amounts of oxygen created, the atmosphere had no oxygen. When terrestrial volcanoes began to dominate, oxygen levels increased.
Andrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!
GPM sees deadly tornadic storms moving through US Southeast
01.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Cyclic change within magma reservoirs significantly affects the explosivity of volcanic eruptions
30.11.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy