Biogenic Methane, Hydrogen Escape, and the Irreversible Oxidation of Early Earth

  title={Biogenic Methane, Hydrogen Escape, and the Irreversible Oxidation of Early Earth},
  author={David C. Catling and Kevin J. Zahnle and Christopher P. McKay},
  pages={839 - 843}
The low O2 content of the Archean atmosphere implies that methane should have been present at levels ∼102 to 103 parts per million volume (ppmv) (compared with 1.7 ppmv today) given a plausible biogenic source. CH4 is favored as the greenhouse gas that countered the lower luminosity of the early Sun. But abundant CH4 implies that hydrogen escapes to space (↑space) orders of magnitude faster than today. Such reductant loss oxidizes the Earth. Photosynthesis splits water into O2 and H, and… 

Methanogenesis sustained by sulfide weathering during the Great Oxidation Event

The Great Oxidation Event following the end of the Archaean eon (~2.4 Ga) was a profound turning point in the history of Earth and life, but the relative importance of various contributing factors

The loss of mass‐independent fractionation in sulfur due to a Palaeoproterozoic collapse of atmospheric methane

We use a 1‐D numerical model to study the atmospheric photochemistry of oxygen, methane, and sulfur after the advent of oxygenic photosynthesis. We assume that mass‐independent fractionation (MIF) of

10.11 – The Global Oxygen Cycle

The rise of oxygen and siderite oxidation during the Lomagundi Event

  • A. BachanL. Kump
  • Geology, Environmental Science
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • 2015
It is proposed that following the initial rise of O2 in the atmosphere, oxidation of siderite provided the necessary carbon for the continued oxidation of sulfides, burial of organic carbon, and, most importantly, accumulation of free O2.

Anaerobic methanotrophy and the rise of atmospheric oxygen

  • D. CatlingM. ClaireK. Zahnle
  • Environmental Science
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
  • 2007
A biogeochemical model is used to simulate the response of early atmospheric O2 and CH4 to changes in marine AOM as sulphate levels increased and shows that methane levels collapse prior to any significant rise in O2, but counter-intuitively, methane re-rises after O2 rises to higher levels when AOM is included.

Biogeochemical modelling of the rise in atmospheric oxygen

Understanding the evolution of atmospheric molecular oxygen levels is a fundamental unsolved problem in Earth's history. We develop a quantitative biogeochemical model that simulates the

The Continuing Puzzle of the Great Oxidation Event

Rethinking the Paleoproterozoic Great Oxidation Event: A Biological Perspective

Competing geophysical/geochemical hypotheses for how Earth's surface became oxygenated - organic carbon burial, hydrogen escape to space, and changes in the redox state of volcanic gases - are

The carbon cycle and associated redox processes through time

  • J. HayesJ. Waldbauer
  • Environmental Science, Geology
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2006
Elevated abundances of 13C in carbonate minerals ca 2.3 Gyr old are here interpreted as indicating the importance of methanogenic bacteria in sediments rather than increased burial of organic carbon.



Greenhouse warming by CH4 in the atmosphere of early Earth.

It is found that a CH4 mixing ratio of 10(-4) (100 ppmv) or more in Earth's early atmosphere would provide agreement with the paleosol data from 2.3-2.4 Ga, which could have triggered the Earth's first widespread glaciation.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations before 2.2 billion years ago

The results suggest that either the Earth's early climate was much more sensitive to increases in pco2 than has been thought, or that one or more greenhouse gases other than CO2 contributed significantly to the atmosphere's radiative balance during the late Archaean and early Proterozoic eons.

Mantle Redox Evolution and the Oxidation State of the Archean Atmosphere

The theory of mantle redox evolution may explain why the Archean atmosphere remained oxygen-deficient until ~2.0 billion years ago (Ga) despite a probable early origin for photosynthesis.

The Exospheric Temperature of a Primitive Terrestrial Atmosphere with Evolving Oxygen Content

Abstract The evolution of oxygen in a primitive terrestrial atmosphere from the dissociation of water vapor is determined from the production and dissipation of hydrogen. The temperature of the

Atmospheric influence of Earth's earliest sulfur cycle

Mass-independent isotopic signatures in Precambrian rocks indicate that a change occurred in the sulfur cycle between 2090 and 2450 million years ago, implying that atmospheric oxygen partial pressures were low and that the roles of oxidative weathering and of microbial oxidation and reduction of sulfur were minimal.

Carbon isotope evidence for the stepwise oxidation of the Proterozoic environment

Trends in the carbon isotope composition of sedimentary organic carbon and carbonate show that during the Proterozoic aeon the organic carbon reservoir grew in size, relative to the carbonate reservoir, mostly during episodes of global rifting and orogeny.

Enhanced CO2 greenhouse to compensate for reduced solar luminosity on early Earth

CURRENT models for the evolution of the Sun require an increase in solar luminosity by 25% since the formation of the Solar System1. Such an increase in the solar constant should have profound

A new model for atmospheric oxygen over Phanerozoic time.

Good agreement for rates of C burial calculated via the model and via independent models indicates that the dominant factor that has brought about changes in atmospheric O2 level (and the isotopic composition of dissolved inorganic carbon in seawater) over Phanerozoic time is sedimentation and not weathering or higher temperature phenomena such as basalt-seawater reaction.