Deep Purple Haze – the orginal sunscreen

Early Earth haze likely provided ultraviolet shield for planet, says CU-Boulder study. See press release here.

Earth’s thick organic haze 3 billion years ago likely similar to haze hovering over Saturn moon Titan today

A new study by CU-Boulder researchers indicates a thick organic haze shrouding Earth several billion years ago was similar to the one now hovering over Saturn’s largest moon, Titan (above)...

A new study shows a thick organic haze that enshrouded early Earth several billion years ago may have been similar to the haze now hovering above Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, and would have protected primordial life on the planet from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation.

The University of Colorado at Boulder scientists believe the haze was made up primarily of methane and nitrogen chemical byproducts created by reactions with light, said CU-Boulder doctoral student Eric Wolf, lead study author. Not only would the haze have shielded early Earth from UV light, it would have allowed gases like ammonia to build up, causing greenhouse warming and perhaps helped to prevent the planet from freezing over.

The researchers determined the haze of hydrocarbon aerosols was probably made up of fluffy, microscopic particles shaped somewhat like cottonwood tree seeds that would have blocked UV but allowed visible light through to Earth’s surface, Wolf said.

Prior to the new study, the prevailing scientific view was that the atmosphere of Earth some 3 billion years ago was primarily made up of nitrogen gas with lesser amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen and water vapor, said Wolf. “Since climate models show early Earth could not have been warmed by atmospheric carbon dioxide alone because of its low levels, other greenhouse gases must have been involved. We think the most logical explanation is methane, which may have been pumped into the atmosphere by early life that was metabolizing it.”

A paper on the subject by Wolf and CU-Boulder Professor Brian Toon of the atmospheric and oceanic sciences department is being published in the June 4 issue of Science. NASA’s Planetary Atmosphere Program funded the study.

The output of the sun during the Archean period some 3.8 billion to 2.5 billion years ago is thought to have been 20 percent to 30 percent fainter than today, said Wolf. But previous work by other scientists produced geological and biological evidence that indicates Earth’s surface temperatures were as warm or warmer than today.

As part of the early Earth study, Wolf and Toon used a climate model from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and concepts from lab studies by another CU group led by chemistry and biochemistry Professor Margaret Tolbert that help explain the odd haze of Titan, the second largest moon in the solar system and the largest moon of Saturn. Titan came under intense study following the arrival of the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn in 2004, allowing scientists to determine it was the only moon in the solar system with both a dense atmosphere and liquid on its surface.

Previous modeling efforts of early Earth haze by other scientists assumed that aerosol particulates making up the haze were spherical, said Wolf. But the spherical shape does not adequately account for the optical properties of the haze that blanketed the planet.

Lab simulations helped researchers conclude that the Earth haze likely was made up of irregular “chains” of aggregate particles with greater geometrical sizes than spheres, similar to the shape of aerosols believed to populate Titan’s thick atmosphere. Wolf said the aggregate aerosol particulates are believed to be fragmented geometric shapes known as fractals that can be split into parts.

During the Archean period there was no ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere to protect life on the planet, said Wolf. “The UV shielding methane haze over early Earth we are suggesting not only would have protected Earth’s surface, it would have protected the atmospheric gases below it — including the powerful greenhouse gas, ammonia — that would have played a significant role in keeping the early Earth warm.”

CU-Boulder researchers estimated there were roughly 100 million tons of haze produced annually in the atmosphere of early Earth during the Archean. “If this was the case, an early Earth atmosphere literally would have been dripping organic material into the oceans, providing manna from heaven for the earliest life to sustain itself,” Toon said.

“Methane is the key to make this climate model run, so one of our goals now is to pin down where and how it originated,” said Toon. If Earth’s earliest organisms didn’t produce the methane, it may have been generated by the release of gasses during volcanic eruptions either before or after life first arose — a hypothesis that will requires further study, he said.

The new CU-Boulder study will likely re-ignite interest in a controversial experiment by scientists Stanley Miller and Harold Urey in the 1950s in which methane, ammonia, nitrogen and water were combined in a test tube. After Miller and Urey ran an electrical current through the mixture to simulate the effects of lightning or powerful UV radiation, the result was the creation of a small pool of amino acids — the building blocks of life.

Toon said the theory of early Earth being shrouded by a gaseous blanket containing methane and ammonia first arose in the 1960s and was subsequently discarded by scientists. In the 1970s and 1980s some scientists suggested the early Earth atmosphere was similar to those on Mars and Venus with lots of carbon dioxide, another theory that eventually went by the wayside. Since CO2-rich atmospheres do not produce organic molecules easily, scientists began looking in deep-sea volcanic vents and at wayward asteroids to explain early Earth life.

A 1997 paper by the late Carl Sagan of Cornell University and Christopher Chyba, then at the University of Arizona, proposed that an organic aerosol shield in early Earth’s atmosphere would have protected the ammonia wafting beneath it, allowing heating to occur at Earth’s surface. But the authors proposed the haze particles were spherical rather than irregular aggregate particles Wolf and Toon suggest and did not consider methane to be the driver of the system, eventually sinking that theory.

“We still have a lot of research to do in order to refine our new view of early Earth,” said Wolf. “But we think this paper solves a number of problems associated with the haze that existed over early Earth and likely played a role in triggering or at least supporting the earliest life on the planet.”

From space, early Earth probably looked much like Titan looks today, said Toon. “It would have been shrouded by a reddish haze that would have been difficult to see through, and the ocean probably was a greenish color caused by dissolved iron in the oceans. It wasn’t a blue planet by any means.”

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81 thoughts on “Deep Purple Haze – the orginal sunscreen

  1. “Since climate models show early Earth could not have been warmed by atmospheric carbon dioxide alone because of its low levels, other greenhouse gases must have been involved.”
    Okay, here is 2 possibilities;
    1) Dr. Wolf knows in detail the formulaes inside the climate models, and therefore is convinced they are right.
    2) Dr. Wolf assumes the climate models are correct.
    Which is it, I wonder.
    I have a feeling its 2), and therefore his statement is false.

  2. Red atmosphere and green oceans? Sounds damn alien…
    Am I surprised to see that a model filled with assumptions doesn’t stand up to reality? Okay it’s easy to grant that this particular assumption was a pretty fair one to make, without better information to hand. Spheres are a good starting point when you’re trying to model objects with unknown dimensions. The universe is very good at spheres…
    Question for those in the know: has Titan ever demonstrated any form of lightning?

  3. How could they leave the hydrological cycle out of all that ?
    It would have had a key role in affecting the constituents of the atmosphere as well as the temperature of the atmosphere.

  4. Prior to the new study, the prevailing scientific view was that the atmosphere of Earth some 3 billion years ago was primarily made up of nitrogen gas with lesser amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen and water vapor, said Wolf. “Since climate models show early Earth could not have been warmed by atmospheric carbon dioxide alone because of its low levels, other greenhouse gases must have been involved.
    Interesting article, but as usual they don’t say much about the role of water vapor as a GHG – at least not in this press release.

  5. “Since climate models show early Earth could not have been warmed by atmospheric carbon dioxide alone because of its low levels, other greenhouse gases must have been involved. …
    “Methane is the key to make this climate model run …

    Is someone possibly either
    a) totally blind to any climate drivers except greenhouse gases
    b) desperately trying to justify climate models that demonise CO2
    c) desperately trying to get more funding
    d) any two or all of the above?

  6. The young sun also spun faster around it’s axis, meaning a faster solar wind, hence less cloud cover on earth, partially compensating for the low TSI.
    If life did begin in the atmosphere, it would explain alot.

  7. “Prior to the new study, the prevailing scientific view was that the atmosphere of Earth some 3 billion years ago was primarily made up of nitrogen gas with lesser amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen and water vapor, said Wolf. “Since climate models show early Earth could not have been warmed by atmospheric carbon dioxide alone because of its low levels, other greenhouse gases must have been involved.”
    Does anyone know how these low levels of CO2 compare with the dangerously high life threatening levels we have now?

  8. Headline: “Scientists come up with wild unproveable theories of earth’s early days”
    In other news: “Scientists fail to find cure for common cold”

  9. How does this study relate to last month’s study in Nature about the faint-early sun paradox by Danish scientists who concluded that early earth had a smaller albedo (“darker”) and less clouds, leading to more absorption of sunlight compared to current conditions?
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v464/n7289/abs/nature08955.html
    Abstract: Environmental niches in which life first emerged and later evolved
    on the Earth have undergone dramatic changes in response to
    evolving tectonic/geochemical cycles and to biologic interventions,
    as well as increases in the Sun’s luminosity of about 25 to 30 per cent
    over the Earth’s history. It has been inferred that the greenhouse
    effect of atmospheric CO2 and/or CH4 compensated for the lower
    solar luminosity and dictated an Archaean climate in which liquid
    water was stable in the hydrosphere. Here we demonstrate,
    however, that the mineralogy of Archaean sediments, particularly
    the ubiquitous presence of mixed-valence Fe(II–III) oxides (mag-
    netite) in banded iron formations9 is inconsistent with such high
    concentrations of greenhouse gases and the metabolic constraints
    of extant methanogens. Prompted by this, and the absence of geologic
    evidence for very high greenhouse-gas concentrations10–13, we hypo-
    thesize that a lower albedo on the Earth, owing to considerably less
    continental area and to the lack of biologically induced cloud con-
    densation nuclei, made an important contribution to moderating
    surface temperature in the Archaean eon. Our model calculations
    suggest that the lower albedo of the early Earth provided environ-
    mental conditions above the freezing point of water, thus alleviating
    the need for extreme greenhouse-gas concentrations to satisfy the
    faint early Sun paradox.
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/328/5983/1266
    Abstract: The Archean Earth (3.8 to 2.5 billion years ago) was probably enshrouded by a photochemical haze composed of fractal aggregate hydrocarbon aerosols. The fractal structure of the aerosols would have had a strong effect on the radiative properties of the haze. In this study, a fractal aggregate haze was found to be optically thick in the ultraviolet wavelengths while remaining relatively transparent in the mid-visible wavelengths. At an annual production rate of 10^14 grams per year and an average monomer radius of 50 nanometers, the haze would have provided a strong shield against ultraviolet light while causing only minimal antigreenhouse cooling.

  10. I got the drop on you so schtick ’em up! Hand over the greens? Or we wont tell you what your ancestral cells ate for breakfast….
    For the most aggressive AGW proponents maybe this study will be the holy grail, for haven’t the “gaia” warmed ever since the first of our ancestral cells got created? :()

  11. Well but Earth had quite a bit of volcanic activity, Titan does not have the same, according to this study http://astronomynow.com/081218IcyvolcanismlikelyonTitan.html
    Earth and Titan have very little in common. I love the guessing tho. I remember having to memorize the rings of Saturn back when they thought they were made up of specific rings of minerals.. Someday we will do a close hi rez fly by .. and it will all change:) hehe

  12. These model things are awesome, aren’t they? Veritable time machines. They can tell us what the future holds for our climate, and furthermore they can look billions of years into the past and tell us the cause of global temps at any given time. And the only requirement is the input of a few assumptions by the programmer.
    Just amazing.

  13. Dr. B.
    The paper was talking about 3 billion years ago, before photosynthesis by cyanobacteria created an oxygenated atmosphere. The graph that you show is < 1 billion years ago, when earth's atmosphere was supporting a diversity of life, not just anaerobic microbes. It would certainly be interesting to know the estimate of CO2 for 3 billion years ago.

  14. It was Cannabis smoke that blocked the light from reaching the bulb! DIM BULB science!

  15. NASA’s Stance: If it sounds plausible to society, print it.
    Of course, it will need further study, so more funding.
    This thing is pure theory and could have been said for any planet or moon.
    Again…Models made to work by any substace replacement.

  16. Archonix says:June 4, 2010 at 12:53 am
    . . . Question for those in the know: has Titan ever demonstrated any form of lightning?

    Obviously not, otherwise it would have ignited all that methane and blown the planet up. 😉
    It’s nice that scientists can send their papers here for review. WUWT has an impressive depth of competence in just about every discipline a climate or weather paper might touch upon, a much more comprehensive understanding than any single PhD peer-reviewer could possibly have. A researcher may find out in a matter of days where he’s full of baloney his weak points are.
    The learned journals ought to require a pass through WUWT before submission for review.

  17. Every planet is an individual and should not be looked at as how this planet was formed. Changing substances of gases and mass, speed of rotation, past history with collisions, distance of sun, magnetics, other influencing planets, etc.
    Once science totally understands the mechanics of this planet( which they do not), then they can have a general idea of possible theories to other planets formation and past.

  18. Dr A Burns
    Reading your comment, I think you may have slightly misinterpreted my Venus article. Without a minimal amount of greenhouse gases, Venus would be cold. My point was that it makes little difference if the atmosphere of Venus is 10% CO2, or 99% CO2.
    The first bit of greenhouse gas is very important for warming the planet. After that, most of the surface temperature is attributable to adiabatic heating.

  19. Since free O2 cannot exist in any appreciable quantity without life, and we are currently at around 20% O2, how much of this was bound up as CO2 around 3 billion years back?

  20. If the Earth’s atmosphere was hydrocarbon-like, as is Titan’s, then does this lend credence to geophysical origins of some hydrocarbons?

  21. Same problem seen under a different paradigm:
    We predict that NASA will never find the elusive methane rains on Titan, because the weather cycle that planetary scientists conjured is not occurring. (Thornhill offers another testable claim about “rain” and “storms” in his treatment of “Electric Weather”)
    Thornhill emphasizes that the water molecule, unlike the methane molecule, is electrically polarized.
    “The oxygen (blue) side of the water molecule is more negative than the hydrogen side (red), forming an electric dipole. In an electric field, the water molecule will rotate to line up with the field. When it condenses in a cloud the average electric dipole moment of a water molecule in a raindrop is 40 percent greater than that of a single water vapor molecule. This enhancement results from the large polarization caused by the electric field induced by surrounding water molecules.”
    Thornhill relates the polarization of water molecules to the seemingly inexplicable “anti-gravity” effect of water droplets in clouds, where “millions of tons of water can be suspended kilometers above the ground, when cloud droplets are about 1,000 times denser than the surrounding air.”

    http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2006/arch06/060804titansmethane.htm

  22. Surprising that the study of palaeo atmosphere is in such disarray. I find it hard to believe that they are still making vague guesses at the archaean atmosphere – swayed by current political requirements as to what they must find. Decade-to-decade swings as to which gas is fashionable for the archaean atmosphere.
    Is there no evidence out there? What about voids within rocks – abundant rocks exist from these periods. What do such voids contain? What happened to palaeo-chemistry?
    In all probability this is another case of a science that was well established 30 years ago, but has been ripped up and air-brushed over by modern politically driven media-controlled pseudo-scientists. Like climate, palaeo-climate, radiation biology, epidemiology and several others – any science area with a connection to a contentious political subject.
    To find the best summary of knowledge in these subject areas such as palaeo atmosphere, its probably advisable to find a review article or book written no later than 1980.

  23. Purple haze all in my brain
    Lately things just don’t seem the same
    Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why
    ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky
    Purple haze all around
    Don’t know if I’m comin’ up or down
    Am I happy or in misery?
    Whatever it is, that girl put a spell on me
    Help me help me
    Oh no no… no
    More lyrics: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/j/jimi+hendrix/#share

  24. “We think the most logical explanation is methane, which may have been pumped into the atmosphere by early life that was metabolizing it.”
    It seems they’ve put the cart before the horse here, as usual. The methane couldn’t possibly have been there first, now, could it?

  25. I am asked to believe that life could blossom while UV light is shielded out. Maybe, but I sure hope that that UV shield doesn’t come back while I’m still around.

  26. This would seem to conflict with this earleir article that claimed a non-greenhouse resolution of the FYSP:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/04/07/faint-sun-paradox-explained-by-stanford-greenhouse-effect-not-involved/
    Frankly I think I have some idea of what they fed into their model and the methane levels that are called for are totally unrealistic. The geological evidence also strongly constrains CO2 to levels insufficient to resolve the paradox. Lindzen and Rondanelli speculate that the Iris Hypothesis could provide a solution, however.

  27. Toon says “and the ocean probably was a greenish color caused by dissolved iron in the oceans. It wasn’t a blue planet by any means.
    This statement seems to suggest Earth is often referred to as the ‘blue planet’ because of all the ocean that is wrongly thought to be blue. However, visible light from directly overhead will mostly pass into the ocean leaving it looking black. The ‘blue planet’ notion occurs because of the atmosphere, not the ocean:
    http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/sage/meteorology/lesson1/images/atmosphere&moon.jpg
    Compare with the lower right of this image:
    http://susty.com/image/greece-forest-fires-view-from-space-smoke-plumes-over-ocean-mediterranean-sea-satellite-image-nasa-earth-observatory-greek-greece-coastline-country-shape-ocean-photo.jpg

  28. 1. Colorado!
    2. “purple mountain majesty..”
    3. “Deep Purple Haze – the orginal sunscreen”
    Ipso facto!
    One little thing leads to another.
    I have a feeling they’re on to something here, but please don’t tell Fat Albert or anyone else.

  29. sandyinderby says: June 4, 2010 at 1:56 am Does anyone know how these low levels of CO2 compare with the dangerously high life threatening levels we have now?
    Sandy, this chart doesn’t go back 3 billion years, but it is easy to see that today’s levels of CO2 are actually very low historically, and hardly “dangerously high life threatening levels”. The plant life would like CO2 at about 3X, or 1000ppm, and will grow about 40% more at that level. Greenhouses often increase CO2 for faster, bigger plant growth.
    http://i46.tinypic.com/2582sg6.jpg

  30. Or maybe it was a water canopy of ice crystals and vapor would shield the earth from harmful solar x-rays and provide a greenhouse environment ideal for maximum plant and animal growth. There is evidence in samples of ancient amber that the atmosphere contained twice as much oxygen is it does today and that the atmospheric pressure was much greater.
    This would explain how an 80-foot-long dinosaur could get enough oxygen for his huge body through nostrils no bigger than those of a horse.
    This greenhouse effect would have provided nearly uniform atmospheric conditions all over the globe. Temperature variations between the equator and the poles would vary by only forty or fifty degrees.
    This would explain the redwood forests found encased in ice near the south pole. Also, the palm leaves and petrified oak trees in the arctic.
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4411939541419360515#
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-9055834128024247330#

  31. more studies that contradict even more studies…
    And at the same time, people have confidence in this ‘science’
    But the take home message is still the same, we can’t control any of it.
    Rising temperatures release more, falling temperatures release less, and we’re just along for the ride.

  32. “Greenhouse effect” is a fiction. The whole bulk atmosphere, composed of nitrogen and oxygen, radiate IR, since its temperature is above zero, warmed by convection and conduction. How can one distinguish this radiation from the tiny amount, which is theoretically captured and radiated back by methane, CO2 or even water vapor?
    Atmosphere radiates, because it stores sun heat. Earth is not warm, because the atmosphere radiates, it is warm because the atmosphere (=99% nitrogen and oxygen) creates a warm blanket.
    Mars got 15x more CO2 than Earth and its theoretical and practical temperature is the same – 210K. But Mars has no bulk atmosphere and therefore no “greenhouse effect”, which does not care about 6,000 ppm of CO2. This obsession by “greenhouse” effect and “greenhouse” gases, all based on theoretical models is ridiculous. It is like attributing warming from spring to summer to wearing short sleeves.

  33. CU-Boulder researchers estimated there were roughly 100 million tons of haze produced annually in the atmosphere of early Earth during the Archean.
    Archean period some 3.8 billion to 2.5 billion years ago
    This is 1.3E17 tons. Where is it all? He never said how it went away.

  34. What a joke, I’m tired of being told how things supposedly were so long ago. I read these things as essentially being fact when I was a kid, and even got into an argument with a teacher in Jr. High because she said the Big Bang was just a theory and I told her it was a fact. Oh how deluded I was!
    This kind of speculation (I would call them “just so” stories) isn’t wrong to do in principle, but when it’s sold as scientific fact it’s disgusting. In reality, we don’t even know that much about Earth from just a few hundred years ago (thus, Mann and co-workers could get away with erasing the likely LIA/MWP), so how in the world can we speculate on things from 3 billion years ago? 3 billions years is 7 orders of magnitude longer ago than 300 years, so that’s the equivalent of knowing what it’s like to spend a dime versus knowing what it’s like to spend a million dollars. By the time you get to something that old, the number of assumptions going into things is so absurd as to make it meaningless.
    Grrr,
    -Scott

  35. Mike McMillan says:
    June 4, 2010 at 4:20 am
    Archonix says:June 4, 2010 at 12:53 am
    . . . Question for those in the know: has Titan ever demonstrated any form of lightning?
    Obviously not, otherwise it would have ignited all that methane and blown the planet up. 😉
    It’s nice that scientists can send their papers here for review. WUWT has an impressive depth of competence in just about every discipline a climate or weather paper might touch upon, a much more comprehensive understanding than any single PhD peer-reviewer could possibly have. A researcher may find out in a matter of days where he’s full of baloney his weak points are.

    Well even this PhD peer-reviewer would have spotted the obvious gaff of ‘liquid methane igniting in the absence of oxygen’. 😉
    The Huygens probe apparently detected discharges on Titan that may have been lightning.

  36. Veddy interesting! Scientists vs Fantasists. Boys and Girls vs Men and Women. I can offer them low rates on a psychoanalysis so they can explore their absolutely (individual) unrealistic unconscious (“psychotic states of mind”) and their failure to grow up.
    Mike McMillan 4:20 am — “The learned journals ought to require a pass through WUWT before submission for review.”
    Steve in SC 4:28 am — “Based on what I read so far, I don’t believe I would give that boy his phd”
    The real science is now being communicated by blogs such as WUWT.
    Thanks, Anthony and “associates”.

  37. “Methane is the key to make this climate model run, so one of our goals now is to pin down where and how it originated,”
    A new study shows a thick organic haze that enshrouded early Earth several billion years ago may have been similar to the haze now hovering above Saturn’s largest…..
    “Since climate models show early Earth could not have been warmed by atmospheric carbon dioxide alone because of its low levels, other greenhouse gases must have been involved. We think the most logical explanation is methane, ….
    As part of the early Earth study, Wolf and Toon used a climate model from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and concepts from lab studies by another CU group led by chemistry and biochemistry Professor Margaret Tolbert that help explain the odd haze of Titan, …
    Lab simulations helped researchers conclude that the Earth haze likely was made up of irregular “chains” of aggregate particles with greater geometrical sizes than spheres, similar to the shape of aerosols believed to populate Titan’s thick atmosphere. Wolf said the aggregate aerosol particulates are believed to be fragmented geometric shapes known as fractals that can be split into parts….
    “The UV shielding methane haze over early Earth we are suggesting not only would have protected Earth’s surface, it would have protected the atmospheric gases below it — including the powerful greenhouse gas, ammonia — that would have played a significant role in keeping the early Earth warm.”
    Lab simulations are those actual laboratory experiments or computer simulations????
    This is not a “theory” it is science fiction!

  38. Mike McMillan says:
    June 4, 2010 at 4:20 am
    It’s nice that scientists can send their papers here for review. WUWT has an impressive depth of competence in just about every discipline a climate or weather paper might touch upon, a much more comprehensive understanding than any single PhD peer-reviewer could possibly have. A researcher may find out in a matter of days where he’s full of baloney his weak points are.
    The learned journals ought to require a pass through WUWT before submission for review.
    __________________________________________________________________________
    It sure would wipe out most of an editor’s slush pile.

  39. While I do find myself having an inexplicable urge to kiss the sky, there are a few observations here. First, everyone knows that purple haze comes from yellow submarines. Second, everyone knows that if you want to understand the Earth, you must look at moons orbiting gas giants.
    Third, if a theory is pretty much universally “discarded by scientists”, chances are there is a good reason. Dusting it off and bringing it back would have to involve some pretty convincing new information.
    Fourth, Pop Science or Science by Sound Bite, or Science by Pretty Colors is going to completely destroy the rest of Science…

  40. “….would have protected primordial life on the planet from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation….”
    Say What?!? Where are our biologists and geneticists?
    Isn’t “the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation” what is supposed to cause mutation and rapid formation of new species???? Isn’t “the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation” what caused the explosion of life forms???

  41. Espen says:
    Interesting article, but as usual they don’t say much about the role of water vapor as a GHG – at least not in this press release.

    On Earth water needs help from other GHGs to produce sufficient vapor pressure to contribute as a GHG itself.
    Enneagram says:
    June 4, 2010 at 5:34 am
    “The oxygen (blue) side of the water molecule is more negative than the hydrogen side (red), forming an electric dipole. In an electric field, the water molecule will rotate to line up with the field. When it condenses in a cloud the average electric dipole moment of a water molecule in a raindrop is 40 percent greater than that of a single water vapor molecule. This enhancement results from the large polarization caused by the electric field induced by surrounding water molecules.”
    Thornhill relates the polarization of water molecules to the seemingly inexplicable “anti-gravity” effect of water droplets in clouds, where “millions of tons of water can be suspended kilometers above the ground, when cloud droplets are about 1,000 times denser than the surrounding air.”

    As far as I can tell Thornhill thinks that molecular polarization is necessary for the formation of charged droplets which is certainly not true (as the existence of electrostatic fuel atomizers proves). Also any pilot who encountered updrafts, particularly in the vicinity of thunderstorms, will realize that convection is quite capable of suspending water droplets aloft (or even gliders for that matter).

  42. Haven’t people been speculating about early conditions on earth for decades? It will take a lot more time to settle on how many plausible scenarios there are and which are most plausible.
    I wonder what variety of model it is that they are referring to? One dimesional?

  43. Mike McMillan says:
    June 4, 2010 at 4:20 am
    The learned journals ought to require a pass through WUWT before submission for review.
    —————————————————————————————————-
    I think Mike was being facetious. But then again it is really hard to tell on this forum. It makes this blog so entertaining trying to discern the serious comments from those tossing in the outlandish for the fun of it.

  44. Gail Combs-Good point. UV has long been thought to have been an important catalyst of genetic change in the evolution of early life. Without it, the mutations necessary to bring about growth in biodiversity would take much longer, I would imagine.

  45. phlogiston says:
    June 4, 2010 at 5:40 am
    “they are still making vague guesses…”
    You are right. Guessing is like wishful thinking, it proves nothing. Any leader would order: Try it!, Prove it, I wanna see it!
    Beliefs count for nothing here. In real life, say in a war, you guess you die buddy!

  46. In order to know what happened YESTERDAY you should know what will happen tomorrow, and in order to know what will happen to,morrow you should know an specific LAW which applies to whatever happened yesterday and will happen tomorrow.
    Any other thing is nothing else but the self indulging of a daddy’s kid crying.

  47. Dr. Carl Woese of the University of Illinois has done extensive research on the evolution of earliest life forms, having identified the “Archae” methane-producing organisms as a distinct branch of life. Look up his research. Here’s one:
    J Mol Evol. 1979 Jul 18;13(2):95-101.
    A proposal concerning the origin of life on the planet earth.
    Woese CR.
    Abstract
    The widely accepted Oparin thesis for the origin and early evolution of life seems sufficiently far from the true state of affairs as to be considered incorrect.
    It is proposed that life on earth actually arose in the planet’s atmosphere, however an atmosphere very different from the present one. Because of an extremely warm surface, the early earth may have possessed no liquid surface water, its water being partitioned between a motten crust and a fairly dense atmosphere.
    Early preliving systems are taken to arise in the droplet phase in such an atmosphere. The early earth, which resembled Venus then and to some extent now, underwent a transition to its present condition largely as a result of the evolution of methanogenic metabolism.

  48. Robert of Ottawa says:
    June 4, 2010 at 5:03 am
    Leave it to a Canadian to cut through the BS and apply logic. I thought the Canadian educational system was kaput, but good thinking keeps emerging on its own!
    Of course hydrocarbons are primarily abiogenic, caused by the polymerization of methane, after the reaction of mixed iron class element hematites, CO2 (free or as carbonate), water, heat and pressure produces the methane. Soviets proved it 30-40 years ago, Germans did a modified method in WWII for their diesel fuel (Fisher Tropf Process). Russians went from net importers of oil and gas to exporters in the last ten years, because they know where to drill by the new paradigm. They taught N Vietnam to do it, now they have deep wells in N Vietnam down to where the oil is made. China is doing it. Our “scientists” (most of them are geologists employed by oil companies) have suppressed this idea even after the Russians did the experiment and showed in the lab identical composition to oil constituents. Why do they suppress the abiogenic oil theory? I am a scientist who does not like to attribute motives for people doing bad science, that is an ad hominem variant, but can you guess? [Hint: it is similar to Al Gore’s and Jim Hansen’s motives.]
    Some King Klowns are even proposing that it was early life on Titan that produced the enormous lakes of methane, ethane, propane and probably all the higher saturated hydrocarbons. I guess the methane on Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune comes from really huge dinosaurs, too. That idea will probably produce a grant or two for exobiologists in the future to look for bones on Titan, and the new age pseudo-scientists at SETI to point their antennas at Titan looking for frozen hydrocarbon hermits.
    From the article:
    “Methane is the key to make this climate model run, so one of our goals now is to pin down where and how it originated,” said Toon. If Earth’s earliest organisms didn’t produce the methane, it may have been generated by the release of gasses during volcanic eruptions either before or after life first arose — a hypothesis that will requires further study, he said.
    Yes, you do that, you pin down where it originated, although we were already taught by you and others, then lied to, and then had it notarized into our textbooks, that oil and natural gas comes from a zillion tons of dinosaurs and rotten vegetation through some unknown mechanism involving complete and utter reduction of compltely oxygenated material, of which 70% of the organism is water and half of the remaining 30% IS oxygen! Do you know how much original live stuff has to be trapped deep under the crust without fermentation and mould eating it first? Do you know how absurd this fossil-fuel theory really is to a biochemist like me? (BTW, anaerobic fermentation produces protein and fatty acids, but only 1-5 carbon FAs. Then, to get to a hydrocarbon, the FA has to decarboxylate, losing another carbon, which is much of the remaining weight? Then how does the propane get to higher hydrocarbons of oil?)
    If this is true, that oil is abiogenic, made 20 miles down at plate boundaries, then seeping up to reservoirs, then are reservoirs being refilled (are old Texas-style rocker oil pumps still rockin’ away in PA, TX, OK, and everywhere?)? Is oil being made today?
    If oil and gas is made continuously in the mantle, then how does that change things? How will that impact the average human on the planet?
    I am convinced by the science that we have an unlimited supply of hydrocarbon on this planet and many others. There is no “peak oil”. Developing countries can keep developing so their people do not have to remain colonized by the governance spurred on by the Gores, Hansens, Watts, Jones, Trenberths, Obamas, and the rest of the evil elitist planners. we will no longer have to believe all of the self-serving science.
    Remember Piltdown Man… remember the Coelacanth!

  49. losemal,
    If you can’t tell the difference, you’re not a typical WUWT reader. Perhaps RC would be more to your liking. ☺

  50. CO2 or O2 when exposed to UV light or lightning will create O3 that will in turn rapidly break back down to O2 therefor its alive.

  51. “”” Baa Humbug says:
    June 4, 2010 at 1:49 am
    The young sun also spun faster around it’s axis, meaning a faster solar wind, hence less cloud cover on earth, partially compensating for the low TSI.
    If life did begin in the atmosphere, it would explain alot. “””
    Just how would you propose to assemble a quorum of relevant atoms and molecules, in the atmosphere to get a living organism ?

  52. bubbagyro says:
    June 4, 2010 at 9:11 am
    “They” seem to be many but they are just a few. They own the global MSM but not the free will of people. And, you know, times are cyclical and now the “screw” is turning around once more…the other way. So, like the chinese philosopher said “Just sit at the front door of your house and you´ll see….”

  53. Phil. says:
    June 4, 2010 at 8:49 am
    Phil, you may want to ask yourself how stratiform clouds stay up.

  54. bubbagyro says:
    June 4, 2010 at 9:11 am
    “Of course hydrocarbons are primarily abiogenic, caused by the polymerization of methane, after the reaction of mixed iron class element hematites, CO2 (free or as carbonate), water, heat and pressure produces the methane. Soviets proved it 30-40 years ago, Germans did a modified method in WWII for their diesel fuel (Fisher Tropf Process). Russians went from net importers of oil and gas to exporters in the last ten years, because they know where to drill by the new paradigm. They taught N Vietnam to do it, now they have deep wells in N Vietnam down to where the oil is made. China is doing it. Our “scientists” (most of them are geologists employed by oil companies) have suppressed this idea even after the Russians did the experiment and showed in the lab identical composition to oil constituents. Why do they suppress the abiogenic oil theory? I am a scientist who does not like to attribute motives for people doing bad science, that is an ad hominem variant, but can you guess? [Hint: it is similar to Al Gore’s and Jim Hansen’s motives.]
    ….If oil and gas is made continuously in the mantle, then how does that change things? How will that impact the average human on the planet?
    I am convinced by the science that we have an unlimited supply of hydrocarbon on this planet and many others. There is no “peak oil”. Developing countries can keep developing so their people do not have to remain colonized by the governance spurred on by the Gores, Hansens, Watts, Jones, Trenberths, Obamas, and the rest of the evil elitist planners. we will no longer have to believe all of the self-serving science.”

    __________________________________________________________________________
    Thank you (and Robert of Ottawa) for that information. You are correct, from the point of view of chemistry it makes perfect sense. 2nd Law and all that. It takes energy to drag the oxygen out of organic matter and releases energy when you add oxygen.

  55. Bubbagyro per your comment if I remember this theory was not the centrifugal forces of the earth responsible for making the newly formed oil to move closer to the suface?

  56. mkelly says:
    June 4, 2010 at 10:32 am
    Dunno. The scientists involved were focused on the chemistry. I imagine that methane, being a gas, would percolate to a layer closer to the surface where it could undergo polymerization at the right temp. and pressure.
    I guess the angular momentum of the earth, spinning at 1000 mph, would have something to do with stratification.
    But do AskSam for abiogenic oil AND theory or abiogenic AND Ukraine and see.

  57. So, is this what the song “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple is referring to? They were ahead of their time.

  58. Billy Liar says:
    June 4, 2010 at 9:52 am
    Phil. says:
    June 4, 2010 at 8:49 am
    Phil, you may want to ask yourself how stratiform clouds stay up.

    And WHY CLOUDS STAY UP. Here is why:
    Water drops in clouds are not in the form of Di-hydrogen Oxide (H2O) but as Hydrogen Hydroxide ( H-OH).
    If any of you wanna see a cloud like formation just dissolve zinc sulphate in water and then add some alkali hydroxide. It will make some beautiful “clouds” of zinc hydroxide, the home made version of a METAL hydroxide as hydrogen hydroxide. When these charged water droplets loose its charge they fall down.
    Now read:
    http://www.holoscience.com/news.php?article=9eq6g3aj
    and this one:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/31262841/Electric-Tree

  59. “It’s nice that scientists can send their papers here for review.”
    Actually, I think that the Government should require any research done with public funding to be published (with supporting data, algorithms, etc.) at a centralized web-site and be open for comments with no moderation (except for language) for one year.

  60. Rhoda R says:
    June 4, 2010 at 11:46 am

    That’s “transparency”. That’s not for friends you know.

  61. Hoi Polloi says:
    June 4, 2010 at 5:42 am

    With your lyrics…do you mean these guys were stoned?
    Very probably…that deep purple haze…. It explains why they do believe in the “green-house effect”, sure they know a lot of cultivation in green houses.

  62. Archonix says:June 4, 2010 at 12:53 am

    . . . Question for those in the know: has Titan ever demonstrated any form of lightning?

    Photo disassociation on Titan is from high energy electrons in the UV bands and cosmic radiation.
    Coll reported (esa ) in 2007
    As we predicted, no lightning discharges were detected in the quiescent Titan atmosphere. Therefore, Titan’s atmospheric chemistry is driven mainly by solar UV irradiation and not by electrical discharges. 4. The mixing ratios of the major gas phase species produced by UV photolysis of acetylene, as found experimentally: methylacetylene ; diacetylene ; divinyl ; and benzene were observed by the Cassini spacecraft in Titan’s upper atmosphere, with an agreement within better than an order of magnitude.
    http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEMV7F9RR1F_index_0.html
    The accompanying paper press release
    Tholins are complex nitrogen-rich substances that form in the laboratory when ultraviolet radiation or electrons react with simpler molecules such as methane and ethane in a surrounding atmosphere of nitrogen. On Titan, the methane and nitrogen-rich atmosphere makes their formation easy and they drift to the surface where they continue to react with other atoms and molecules.
    Faced with creating such alien molecules, the French team designed a special reaction chamber to simulate Titan’s atmosphere and produce the tholins for study. “We can generate over 200 chemical species,” says Patrice Coll, a team member at Laboratoire Interuniversitaire des Systèmes Atmosphériques (LISA), Paris, “We do not yet know the detailed pathways that build the chemicals, but we believe that are very similar to those on Titan.”…..
    ….The aerosols govern what you can see on Titan. They create Titan’s hazy conditions, revealed by Huygens, and give the moon its dull orange glow. If you could stand on the surface of Titan and magically tune your eyes to infrared light, the haze and the clouds would seem to disappear and Saturn would loom large in the night sky. This is because the aerosols are largely invisible at infrared wavelengths. Change your eyes to ultraviolet, however, and you would be plunged into darkness because, at these wavelengths, the tholins behaves like a thick fog that absorbs all ultraviolet radiation falling on it.

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pss.2007.04.010

  63. maksimovich says:
    Tholins are complex nitrogen-rich substances that form in the laboratory when ultraviolet radiation or electrons…
    Hoy do you call it when electrons move?: Electricity and… btw, all chemical reactions are electrical in nature. Whence did it come the energy?

  64. “Must have been”: The classic religious argument. “We are here, so a god must have created us.”
    I never pay any heed to a “must have been” argument. Not in the least bit scientific.

  65. “We think the most logical explanation is methane, which may have been pumped into the atmosphere by early life that was metabolizing it.”
    Excuse me, if early life were metabolizing methane they would be consuming it/REMOVING the methane.

  66. Richard G says:
    June 4, 2010 at 2:10 pm
    “We think the most logical explanation is methane, which may have been pumped into the atmosphere by early life that was metabolizing it.”
    Excuse me, if early life were metabolizing methane they would be consuming it/REMOVING the methane.

    Consuming? Producing? Same difference – who cares? – its just the “mood music” that needs to be right. Someone has woken up to the fact that high CO2 in early earth atmosphere is problematic for CAGW since runaway warming from CO2 never happened previously even with 20-50 x more CO2 than today, and never will. So now a fuzzy methane-ammonia “cloud of un-knowing” is needed to distract our attention away from this problematic early CO2.

  67. “”” Enneagram says:
    June 4, 2010 at 5:34 am
    Same problem seen under a different paradigm:
    We predict that NASA will never find the elusive methane rains on Titan, because the weather cycle that planetary scientists conjured is not occurring. (Thornhill offers another testable claim about “rain” and “storms” in his treatment of “Electric Weather”)
    Thornhill emphasizes that the water molecule, unlike the methane molecule, is electrically polarized.
    “The oxygen (blue) side of the water molecule is more negative than the hydrogen side (red), forming an electric dipole. In an electric field, the water molecule will rotate to line up with the field. When it condenses in a cloud the average electric dipole moment of a water molecule in a raindrop is 40 percent greater than that of a single water vapor molecule. This enhancement results from the large polarization caused by the electric field induced by surrounding water molecules.” “””
    So Enneagram,
    This may be all wet; but I seem to recall, that water has a dielectric constant of about 81. I’m sure that is for some sort of good water, like 18 megohm stuff.
    Apparently this is related to the reason why so many things dissolve readily in water; presumably at least ionic bonds get strongly weakened when immersed in water.
    Any ideas at the molecular level why H2O would have such a big dielectric constant; and it doesn’t seem to jibe with the ordinary visible light refractive index of around 1.333 ?

  68. Come to think of it….
    Early earth in northern europe is recreated i n s i d e everyones underwear about every other thursday, or so, a couple of hours after a certain pea soup and horrid non-flavoured pancakes without whipped cream even.
    By smell alone, it’s all sulfur and methane I’m sure.

  69. Tim Clark is correct. Indeed, ‘Deep Purple’ were ahead of their time as evidenced in their music and lyrics to ‘Smoke on the Water’, now reliably dated at early Archaean to late Phanerozoic.
    ‘They all went down to Rio (Kyoto aka Copenhagen)
    On the ‘January River’ shoreline (prograding, maybe)
    To make records within a mobile- (beach hut, Tuvalu?)
    They didn’t have much time. (doomed – us all)
    But Hansen, Jones and Briffa (not strictly accurate)
    Were at the best place around (gov funding policy)
    ’til some stupids with their e-mails (various sites)
    Crashed their farce to the ground (Nov ’09->)
    Smoke on the water and fire in the sky (CAGW)
    Smoke on the water……… ‘ (thanks for the evidence- Ant, Willis, Steve
    and you know who you are)
    Darn, why is there not a ‘cancel submit post’ button when you need one………

  70. All studies of the early atmosphere are speculative and rely on modeling, including modeling of the early solar nebula, Earth’s accretion from planetismals, the Earth/moon impact, etc. Rock samples don’t reveal the atmosphere much before 3 billion years ago.
    George H. Shaw submitted a review “Earth’s atmosphere – Hadean to early Proterozoic” available at http://www.sciencedirect.com (pay site). 29 pages $31 bucks unless your work has ScienceDirect. Densely packed. Not an easy read.
    If methane did shield the Earth’s surface from UV long ago, it is odd that there are no fossils of land-based bacterial colonies, although there are fossils of ocean bacterial colonies (stromatolites).
    Shaw’s review says it would have taken 0.2 atm of CO2 to compensate for the 30% less solar irradiance. Since CO2 reacts with rocks, something had to continually replenish the CO2.

  71. Re: Hoi Polloi
    Yes, I see the progression. The purple haze was previously discussed in Hendrix (1967), then the result of its condensation into purple rain was in Prince (1984) and covered extensively since then.
    Was there ever any mention about a purple ocean?

  72. To bubbgyro:
    The abiogenetic theory for oil origination was championed by the late Dr. Thomas Gold, an astrophysicist who frequently advanced theories that were considered outlandish. However–he had an annoying habit of ending up being proved RIGHT.
    See his book, The Deep Hot Biosphere, for more.
    This theory is slowly gaining some grudging acceptance from Western geologists and petroleum engineers–as you pointed out, the Russians have used predictions from it to drill some very productive wells in formations that should have had no petroleum at all according to accepted biogenesis theory. Currently, this crowd has been forced admit that a “vanishingly small percentage” of oil is of abiogenetic origin. Check back in 20 years–that precentage may have jumped up by then.

  73. Actually, from what I read T Gold got the idea from a Russian altho I love his work, brilliant. And the W Thornhill info is straight from the 1946 paper of Velikovsky’s Cosmos Without Gravitation which I also think is brilliant. Phlogiston & Scott right.
    I am still having trouble with the hot earth for how many billion years, with water yet. I just can’t picture early earth spinning around for billions of years unfrozen with a bad case of bathtub slosh. Which is why loud blare of Water On Early Mars to keep Water On Early Earth company.
    So the hot earth had to have a cause, proposed co2 shot down due to lack of, and now methane cotton seeds. Just found out today water drops are hamburger bun shaped.
    Encedalus iced all over sounds so warm and fuzzy. Maybe before eyes/heart/arteries fail the theory will swing back to frozen, except for 2 b warm up and 1/2 b warm again because Ice Ball Earth was a frozen world, right? And under the ice was water. The only thing T Gold was wrong about was the depth of moon dust and where did it go?

  74. I think you all have missed the point. Wolf and Toon both make clear that what they propose is a theory — not fact — and if any of you had read the entire article in “Science” (which I doubt anyone here has), you would have read this new theory is the ONLY one proposed thus far that comes close to solving the “Dim Sun Paradox.” Again, Wolf and Toon expound a theory acknowledging and even looking forward to others improving upon it.
    It should be noted that Dr. Brian Toon is a preeminent atmospheric scientist who with four others (including his advisor and mentor, Carl Sagan) coined the now familiar term “Nuclear Winter” derived from their modeling of nuclear war’s affects on the atmosphere back in the late 70’s. I don’t know much about Wolf except that he is a student of Toon’s (apparently one of his stars) much like Toon worked under Sagan.
    If you received “Science” magazine, you also would have read a highly detailed, long article written by Dr. Chyba of Princeton whose theory Wolf and Toon improved upon. Chyba, like Toon, a preeminent Atmospheric Physicist, gave the Organic Haze, spherical molecule theory Two Thumbs Up and stated that “Wolf and Toon may have gotten this just right.”
    So relax all of you naysayers. Read the findings in detail in “Science” magazine, read Chyba’s critique –and most of all, get used to the fact that Wolf and Toon have changed the way we view the early earth. Geez, you guys sound as shrill and hysterical as the Creationist folk.
    Dr. Steve J
    Atmospheric Sciences

  75. Titan proves that oil is the cheap and sustainable fuel we have been looking for.
    The earth is not doomed and life is good. Now if NASA would quit worrying about the CO2 in the atmosphere and actually explore space.

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