BEACON TRANSCRIPT – We all know something about the Ice Age but now scientists have discovered that the Earth stopped being a snowball due to underwater volcanoes.
Although we’ve all heard about the time when Earth was frozen, either because we learnt about it in school or most likely because we’ve watched the Ice Age movies, we don’t really know how our planet froze over, considering that Scratch’s peanut was not to blame for it. So here is how scientists believe it happened.
About 720 million years ago, the supercontinent Rodinia separated. This caused rivers to flow into oceans at a much faster pace. This in turn lead to the ocean changing its chemistry and to the reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And all of these eventually caused an increase in the ice coverage.
The very large ice sheets covering the planet reflected away the sunlight which the weather didn’t change for a long time. What finally triggered the change of the weather was the release of carbon dioxide which came from land-based volcanic activity. This warmed the atmosphere and consequently melted the ice.
According to scientists, the oceans’ chemistry has changed because of volcanic chemicals and it looks like all phenomena in the Earth’s Snowball period are linked to submarine volcanism. Apparently, all the chemicals that built up during the Ice Age from the lava erupting from the volcanoes – chemicals that filled the ocean with phosphorus, calcium, silicon and magnesium, lead to the eventual warming up of the planet.
One of the above mentioned chemicals, phosphorus, is also believed to be the trigger of not only heat but also life. The high levels of phosphorus contained in the ocean have stimulated the creation of multicellular organisms.
These organisms were made up of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. While the carbon was found mainly on the bottom of the ocean, oxygen levels increased and led further to new life forms, helping them evolve.
All in all, it’s quite surprising too learn that after a period in which the Earth was frozen, with no change in weather, there came a time in which life started forming, as if nothing happened.