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Ideas about atmospheric composition and climate on the early Earth have evolved considerably over the last 30 years, but many uncertainties still remain. It is generally agreed that the atmosphere contained little or no free oxygen initially and that oxygen concentrations increased markedly near 2.0 billion years ago, but the precise timing of and reasons(More)
A decade ago, Lovelock and Whitfield raised the question of how much longer the biosphere can survive on Earth. They pointed out that, despite the current fossil-fuel induced increase in the atmospheric CO2 concentration, the long-term trend should be in the opposite direction: as increased solar luminosity warms the Earth, silicate rocks should weather(More)
Large asteroid impacts produced globally lethal conditions by evaporating large volumes of ocean water on the early Earth. The Earth may have been continuously habitable by ecosystems that did not depend on photosynthesis as early as 4.44 Gyr BP (before present). Only a brief interval after 3.8 Gyr exists between the time when obligate photosynthetic(More)
Context. Thanks to remarkable progress, radial velocity surveys are now able to detect terrestrial planets at habitable distance from low-mass stars. Recently, two planets with minimum masses below 10 M⊕ were reported in a triple system around the M-type star Gliese 581. These planets are found at orbital distances comparable with the location of the(More)
Simple energy-balance climate models of the Budyko/Sellers type predict that a small (2-5%) decrease in solar output could result in runaway glaciation on the Earth. But solar fluxes 25-30% lower early in the Earth's history apparently did not lead to this result. One currently favoured explanation is that high partial pressures of carbon dioxide, caused(More)
Early in its history, Mars underwent fluvial erosion that has been interpreted as evidence for a warmer, wetter climate. However, no atmosphere composed of only CO2 and H2O appears capable of producing mean planetary temperatures even close to 0 degrees C. Rather than by precipitation, aquifer recharge and ground water seepage may have been enabled by(More)
The possible consequences of very high carbon dioxide concentrations in the earth's early atmosphere have been investigated with a radiative-convective climate model. The early atmosphere would apparently have been stable against the onset of a runaway greenhouse (that is, the complete evaporation of the oceans) for carbon dioxide pressures up to at least(More)
Mars is believed to be lifeless, but it may be possible to transform it into a planet suitable for habitation by plants, and conceivably humans. The success of such an enterprise would depend on the abundance, distribution and form of materials on the planet that could provide carbon dioxide, water and nitrogen.
Palaeomagnetic data suggest that the Earth was glaciated at low latitudes during the Palaeoproterozoic (about 2.4-2.2 Gyr ago) and Neoproterozoic (about 820-550 Myr ago) eras, although some of the Neoproterozoic data are disputed. If the Earth's magnetic field was aligned more or less with its spin axis, as it is today, then either the polar ice caps must(More)