Washington, August 19 (ANI): A team of scientists has determined that Carbonyl Sulphide gas warmed the world and saved it from freezing over during the Archean eon more than 3 billion years ago.
When Planet Earth was just cooling down from its fiery creation, the sun was faint and young. So faint that it should not have been able to keep the oceans of earth from freezing.
But fortunately for the creation of life, water was kept liquid on our young planet.
For years, scientists have debated what could have kept earth warm enough to prevent the oceans from freezing solid.
Now, a team of researchers from Tokyo Institute of Technology and University of Copenhagen's Department of Chemistry have coaxed an explanation out of ancient rocks.
"The young sun was approximately 30 percent weaker than it is now, and the only way to prevent earth from turning into a massive snowball was a healthy helping of greenhouse gas," said associate Professor Matthew S. Johnson of the Department of Chemistry.
He has found the most likely candidate for an archean atmospheric blanket is Carbonyl Sulphide: a product of the sulphur disgorged during millennia of volcanic activity.
"Carbonyl Sulphide is and was the perfect greenhouse gas. Much better than Carbon Dioxide. We estimate that a blanket of Carbonyl Sulphate would have provided about 30 percent extra energy to the surface of the planet. And that would have compensated for what was lacking from the sun," said Professor Johnson.
To discover what could have helped the faint young sun warm early earth, Professor Johnson and his colleagues in Tokyo examined the ratio of sulphur isotopes in ancient rocks.
What they saw was a strange signal: a mix of isotopes that couldn't very well have come from geological processes.
"There is really no process in the rocky mantle of earth that would explain this distribution of isotopes. You would need something happening in the atmosphere," said Johnson.
Painstaking experimentation helped them find a likely atmospheric process.
By irradiating sulphur dioxide with different wavelengths of sunlight, they observed that sunlight passing through Carbonyl Sulphide gave them the wavelengths that produced the weird isotope mix.
"Shielding by Carbonyl Sulphide is really a pretty obvious candidate once you think about it, but until we looked, everyone had missed it," said Professor Johnson.
"What we found is really an archaic analogue to the current ozone layer.A layer that protects us from ultraviolet radiation. But unlike ozone, Carbonyl Sulphide would also have kept the planet warm," he added. (ANI)