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Ancient trapped water could explain timing of Earth's first ice age
by Staff Writers
Pilbara, Australia (UPI) Jun 5, 2013


disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Tiny bubbles of ancient water trapped in quartz grains in Australia may hold the key to understanding what caused the Earth's first ice age, scientists say.

Researchers at the University of Manchester in England, along with French colleagues, analyzed the amount of ancient atmospheric argon gas isotopes dissolved in the bubbles and found levels were very different to those in the air we breathe today, a finding that could help explain why Earth didn't suffer its first ice age until 2.5 billion years ago despite the Sun's rays being weaker during the early years of our planet's formation.

"Evidence from the geological record indicates that the first major glaciations on Earth occurred about 2.5 billion years ago, and yet the energy of the sun was 20 percent weaker prior to, and during, this period, so all water on Earth should already have been frozen," Manchester researcher Ray Burgess said.

"This is something that has baffled scientists for years but our findings provide a possible explanation," he said in a University release Wednesday.

"High levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the early atmosphere -- in the order of several percent -- which would have helped retain the sun's heat, has been suggested as the reason why the Earth did not freeze over sooner, but just how this level was reduced has been unexplained, until now."

The analysis of argon isotopes ratio helped in estimating how the continents have grown over geological time, the researchers said, which would directly affect the amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere.

"The continents are a key player in the Earth's carbon cycle because carbon dioxide in the atmosphere dissolves in water to form acid rain," Burgess said. "The carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere by this ... acid weathering of this early crust would efficiently reduce the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to lower global temperatures and lead to the first major ice age."

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ICE WORLD
Arctic current flowed under deep freeze of last ice age
New York NY (SPX) Jun 02, 2013
During the last ice age, when thick ice covered the Arctic, many scientists assumed that the deep currents below that feed the North Atlantic Ocean and help drive global ocean currents slowed or even stopped. But in a new study in Nature, researchers show that the deep Arctic Ocean has been churning briskly for the last 35,000 years, through the chill of the last ice age and warmth of mode ... read more


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