A coupled ecosystem-climate model for predicting the methane concentration in the archean atmosphere

James F. Kasting, Alexander A. Pavlov, Janet L. Siefert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

75 Scopus citations

Abstract

A simple coupled ecosystem-climate model is described that can predict levels of atmospheric CH4, CO2, and H2 during the Late Archean, given observed constraints on Earth's surface temperature. We find that methanogenic bacteria should have converted most of the available atmospheric H2 into CH4, and that CH4 may have been equal in importance to CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Photolysis of this CH4 may have produced a hydrocarbon smog layer that would have shielded the surface from solar UV radiation. Methanotrophic bacteria would have consumed some of the atmospheric CH4, but they would have been incapable of reducing CH4 to modern levels. The rise of O2 around 2.3 Ga would have drastically reduced the atmospheric CH4 concentration and may thereby have triggered the Huronian glaciation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-285
Number of pages15
JournalOrigins of life and evolution of the biosphere
Volume31
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 21 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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