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.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Space and Planetary Science