Clouds and Snowball Earth deglaciation

Dorian S. Abbot, Aiko Voigt, Mark Branson, Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, David Pollard, Guillaume Le Hir, Daniel D.B. Koll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

Neoproterozoic, and possibly Paleoproterozoic, glaciations represent the most extreme climate events in post- Hadean Earth, and may link closely with the evolution of the atmosphere and life. According to the Snowball Earth hypothesis, the entire ocean was covered with ice during these events for a few million years, during which time volcanic CO2 increased enough to cause deglaciation. Geochemical proxy data and model calculations suggest that the maximum CO2 was 0.01-0.1 by volume, but early climate modeling suggested that deglaciation was not possible at CO2 = 0.2. We use results from six different general circulation models (GCMs) to show that clouds could warm a Snowball enough to reduce the CO2 required for deglaciation by a factor of 10-100. Although more work is required to rigorously validate cloud schemes in Snowball-like conditions, our results suggest that Snowball deglaciation is consistent with observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL20711
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume39
Issue number20
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 28 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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