Kirschvink noted that reappeared in the geological record during the possible Snowball Earth times, after vanishing about a billion years earlier. Kirschvink noted that iron cannot increase to levels where they would create BIFs if the global ocean was oxygenated. Kirschvink proposed that the sea ice not only killed the photosynthesizers, but it also separated the ocean from the atmosphere so that the global ocean became anoxic. Iron from volcanoes on the ocean floor would build up in solution during the , and during the greenhouse phase the oceans would become oxygenated and the iron would fall out in BIFs. Other geological evidence for the vacillating icehouse and greenhouse conditions was the formation of cap carbonates over the glacial till. It was a global phenomenon; wherever the Snowball Earth till was, cap carbonates were atop them. In geological circles, deposited during the past 100 million years are considered to be of tropical origin, so scientists think that the cap carbonates reflected a tropical environment. The fact of cap carbonates atop glacial till is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the Snowball Earth hypothesis. Kirschvink finished his paper by noting that the eon of complex life came on the heels of the Snowball Earth, and scouring the oceans of life would have presented virgin oceans for the rapid spread of life in the greenhouse periods, and this could have initiated the evolutionary novelty that led to complex life.
Readers for the collective task that I have in mind need to become familiar with the scientific process, partly so they can develop a critical eye for the kinds of arguments and evidence that attend the pursuit of FE and other fringe science/technology efforts. For the remainder of this essay, I will attempt to refrain from referring to too many scientific papers and getting into too many details of the controversies. Following my references will help readers who want to go deeply into the issues, and many of them are as deep and controversial as the Snowball Earth hypothesis and aftermath has proven to be, or attempts to explain the . These are relatively new areas of scientific investigation, partly due to an improved scientific toolset and ingenious ways to use them. It is very possible that the controversies in those areas will diminish within the next generation as new hypotheses account for increasingly sophisticated data, and in the near future are nearly certain. But science is always subject to becoming dogmatic and hypotheses can prevail for reasons of wealth, power, rhetorical skill, and the like, not because they are valid. The history of science is plagued with that phenomenon, and probably will be as long as humanity lives in the era of scarcity.
Around when Harland first proposed a global ice age, a climate model developed by Russian climatologist concluded that if a Snowball Earth really happened, the runaway positive feedbacks would ensure that the planet would never thaw and become a permanent block of ice. For the next generation, that climate model made a Snowball Earth scenario seem impossible. In 1992, a professor, , that coined the term Snowball Earth. Kirschvink sketched a scenario in which the supercontinent near the equator reflected sunlight, as compared to tropical oceans that absorb it. Once the global temperature decline due to reflected sunlight began to grow polar ice, the ice would reflect even more sunlight and Earth’s surface would become even cooler. This could produce a runaway effect in which the ice sheets grew into the tropics and buried the supercontinent in ice. Kirschvink also proposed that the situation could become unstable. As the sea ice crept toward the equator, it would kill off all photosynthetic life and a buried supercontinent would no longer engage in . Those were two key ways that carbon was removed from the atmosphere in the day's , especially before the rise of land plants. Volcanism would have been the main way that carbon dioxide was introduced to the atmosphere (animal respiration also releases carbon dioxide, but this was before the eon of animals), and with two key dynamics for removing it suppressed by the ice, carbon dioxide would have increased in the atmosphere. The resultant greenhouse effect would have eventually melted the ice and runaway effects would have quickly turned Earth from an icehouse into a greenhouse. Kirschvink proposed the idea that Earth could vacillate between states.
In the oceans, the Carboniferous is called the Golden Age of Sharks, and ray-finned fish arose to a ubiquity that they have yet to fully relinquish. Ray-finned fish probably prevailed because of their high energy efficiency. Their skeletons and scales were lighter than those of armored and lobe-finned fish, and their increasingly sophisticated and lightweight fins, their efficient tailfin method of propulsion, changes in their skulls, jaws, and new ways to use their lightweight and versatile equipment accompanied and probably led to the rise and subsequent success of ray-finned fish in the Carboniferous and afterward. , which are amoebic protists, rose to prominence for the first time in the Carboniferous. Reefs began to recover, although they did not recover to pre-Devonian conditions; those vast Devonian reefs have not been seen again. did not appear until the . Trilobites steadily declined and nautiloids familiar today, and straight shells became rare. The first , which were ancestral to squids and octopi, first appeared in the early Carboniferous, but some Devonian specimens might qualify. Ammonoids flourished once again, after barely surviving the Devonian Extinction. This essay is only focusing on certain prominent clades, and there are many and . The early Carboniferous, for example, is called the Golden Age of , which are a kind of , which is a phylum that includes starfish. The crinoids had their golden age when the fish that fed on them disappeared in the end-Devonian extinction. Earth’s ecosystems are vastly richer entities than this essay, or essay, can depict.
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The ecosystems may not have recovered from Olson’s Extinction of 270 mya, and at 260 mya came another mass extinction that is called the mid-Permian or extinction, or the , although a recent study found only one extinction event, in the mid-Capitanian. In the 1990s, the extinction was thought to result from falling sea levels. But the first of the two huge volcanic events coincided with the event, in . There can be several deadly outcomes of major volcanic events. As with an , massive volcanic events can block sunlight with the ash and create wintry conditions in the middle of summer. That alone can cause catastrophic conditions for life, but that is only one potential outcome of volcanism. What probably had far greater impact were the gases belched into the air. As oxygen levels crashed in the late Permian, there was also a huge carbon dioxide spike, as shown by , and the late-Permian volcanism is the near-unanimous choice as the primary reason. That would have helped create super-greenhouse conditions that perhaps came right on the heels of the volcanic winter. Not only would carbon dioxide vent from the mantle, as with all volcanism, but the late-Permian volcanism occurred beneath Ediacaran and Cambrian hydrocarbon deposits, which burned them and spewed even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Not only that, great salt deposits from the Cambrian Period were also burned via the volcanism, which created hydrochloric acid clouds. Volcanoes also spew sulfur, which reacts with oxygen and water to form . The oceans around the volcanoes would have become acidic, and that fire-and-brimstone brew would have also showered the land. Not only that, but the warming initiated by the initial carbon dioxide spike could have then warmed up the oceans enough so that methane hydrates were liberated and create even more global warming. Such global warming apparently warmed the poles, which not only melted away the last ice caps and ended an ice age that had , but deciduous forests are in evidence at high latitudes. A 100-million-year Icehouse Earth period ended and a 200-million-year Greenhouse Earth period began, but the transition appears to have been chaotic, with wild swings in greenhouse gas levels and global temperatures. Warming the poles would have lessened the heat differential between the equator and poles and further diminished the lazy Panthalassic currents. The landlocked Paleo-Tethys and Tethys oceans, and perhaps even the Panthalassic Ocean, may have all become superheated and anoxic as the currents died. Huge also happened, which may have and led to ultraviolet light damage to land plants and animals. That was all on top of the oxygen crash. With the current state of research, all of the above events may have happened, in the greatest confluence of life-hostile conditions during the eon of complex life. A recent study suggests that the extinction event that ended the Permian may have lasted only 60,000 years or so. In 2001, a bolide event was proposed for the Permian extinction with great fanfare, but it does not appear to be related to the Permian extinction; the other dynamics would have been quite sufficient. The Permian extinction was the greatest catastrophe that Earth’s life experienced since the previous supercontinent existed in the .
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When and the wiped out nearly everything, long years of evolution on separate continents came to an end when one supercontinent formed and became Earth’s dominant land animal for a brief time. The was another example of merging continents spelling the extinction of less adaptable species. Some have argued that the biological effect of Europe’s conquest of the world was like continents merging,
which contribute to the greenhouse effect
With industrialization, peoples could export their environmental devastation onto other unfortunates. An early trick of industries was making the smokestacks taller so that the pollution was “airmailed” to their neighbors. Japan regenerated its forests by importing timber from raped forests abroad, mostly from the Asian mainland and North America. Burning fossil fuels has also raised the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide content, which has warmed Earth. It that the radiation-absorbing properties of greenhouse gases were measured, and it before scientists began to suspect that the fossil fuel era might be warming Earth’s atmosphere. A century later, there is still a faux debate regarding the atmospheric-warming effects of burning fossil fuels, and I will briefly address the issue.