facebook
twitter
rss
account
search
search
 

'Fossil' raindrops clues to early Earth

Dec. 4, 2012 at 8:19 PM   |   Comments

MOFFET FIELD, Calif., Dec. 4 (UPI) -- The fossilized imprints of raindrops in 2.7 billion-year-old rocks reveal clues to what the atmosphere was like on the early Earth, a U.S. researcher says.

The depth of the depressions in what was once volcanic ash suggest how fast the raindrops were travelling when they hit the ground, which is turn gives scientists information on how dense the atmosphere was almost 3 billion years ago.

The Earth was a difference place than what is seen today, scientists have said; it rotated more slowly on its axis, the moon appeared huge in the sky because it was much closer, sunlight was much weaker and the atmosphere was unable to support life.

The fossil raindrops suggest the atmosphere 2.7 billion years ago was likely about as dense as today, perhaps a bit less, researcher Sanjoy Som from NASA's Ames Research Center in California told the BBC

That supports the idea the ancient atmosphere must have had a strong concentration of greenhouse gases.

"There was probably quite a bit of nitrogen in the atmosphere, like today, but there was no oxygen," he said.

Without extra density in the atmosphere to trap heat, only the presence of greenhouse gases would provide a blanket to keep heat in and keep the Earth from turning into a snowball planet under a substantially weaker sun, he said.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Most Popular
1
Harvard scientist startled by giant bird-eating spider on rainforest walk Harvard scientist startled by giant bird-eating spider on rainforest walk
2
Wisconsin shuts down three wolf hunting zones, two remain open Wisconsin shuts down three wolf hunting zones, two remain open
3
Soda drinkers may be slowly killing themselves Soda drinkers may be slowly killing themselves
4
Peaking Orionid meteor shower to be obscured by nor'easter Peaking Orionid meteor shower to be obscured by nor'easter
5
Earth's magnetic field may soon flip, according to new data Earth's magnetic field may soon flip, according to new data
Trending News
Around the Web
x
Feedback