Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rock Hounds Sleuth Rise Of Earth's Atmosphere

Date:
May 3, 2005
Source:
Carnegie Institution
Summary:
"CSI-like" techniques, used on minerals, are revealing the steps that led to evolution of the atmosphere on Earth. President of the Mineralogical Society of America, Douglas Rumble, III, of the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory, describes the suite of techniques and studies over the last five years that have led to a growing consensus by the scientific community of what happened to produce the protective ozone layer and atmosphere on our planet.

Washington, D.C. -- "CSI-like" techniques, used on minerals, are revealing the steps that led to evolution of the atmosphere on Earth. President of the Mineralogical Society of America, Douglas Rumble, III, of the Carnegie Institution's Geophysical Laboratory, describes the suite of techniques and studies over the last five years that have led to a growing consensus by the scientific community of what happened to produce the protective ozone layer and atmosphere on our planet. His landmark paper on the subject appears in the May/June American Mineralogist.

"Rocks, fossils, and other natural relics hold clues to ancient environments in the form of different ratios of isotopes--atomic variants of elements with the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons," explained Rumble. "Seawater, rain water, oxygen, and ozone, for instance, all have different ratios, or fingerprints, of the oxygen isotopes 16O, 17O, and 18O. Weathering, ground water, and direct deposition of atmospheric aerosols change the ratios of the isotopes in a rock revealing a lot about the past climate." Rumble's paper describes how geochemists, mineralogists, and petrologists are studying anomalies of isotopes of oxygen and sulfur to piece together what happened to our atmosphere from about 3.9 billion years ago, when the crust of our planet was just forming and there was no oxygen in the atmosphere, to a primitive oxygenated world 2.3 billion years ago, and then to the present.

The detective work involves a pantheon of scientists who have analyzed surface minerals from all over the globe, used rockets and balloons to sample the stratosphere, collected and studied ice cores from Antarctica, conducted lab experiments, and run mathematical models. The synthesis from the different fields and techniques points to ultraviolet (UV) light from the Sun as an important driving force in atmospheric evolution. Solar UV photons break up molecular oxygen (O2) to produced ozone (O3) leaving a tell-tale isotopic signature of excess 17O. The ozone layer began to form as the atmosphere gained oxygen, and has since shielded our planet from harmful solar rays and made life possible on Earth's surface.

The discovery of isotope anomalies, where none were previously suspected, adds a new tool to research on the relationships between shifts in atmospheric chemistry and climate change. Detailed studies of polar-ice cores and exposed deposits in Antarctic dry valleys may improve our understanding of the history of the ozone hole.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Carnegie Institution. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Carnegie Institution. "Rock Hounds Sleuth Rise Of Earth's Atmosphere." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 May 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050503153444.htm>.
Carnegie Institution. (2005, May 3). Rock Hounds Sleuth Rise Of Earth's Atmosphere. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050503153444.htm
Carnegie Institution. "Rock Hounds Sleuth Rise Of Earth's Atmosphere." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050503153444.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins