Carbon dioxide and oxygen, not methane, were prevalent in the Earths atmosphere more than 1.8 billion years ago as shown by the absence of siderite in ancient soils but the abundance of the mineral in ocean sediments from that time, according to a Penn State geochemist.
"The absence of siderite in some ancient soils has been linked to low carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, levels that would be too low to compensate for the cooler sun 2.2 billion years ago," says Dr. Hiroshi Ohmoto, professor of geochemistry and director of the Penn State Astrobiology Research Center. "The absence of siderite in these soils, however, does not constrain atmospheric carbon dioxide, but occurred because the oxygen and acidity of well-aerated soils caused iron to form into other minerals."
Previous researchers suggested that the greenhouse gas methane compensated for the low carbon dioxide levels, making the Earth warm enough for water to flow.
A’ndrea Elyse Messer | EurekAlert!
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