Methane and climate during the Precambrian era

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The Sun was substantially less bright in the distant past, yet Earth's surface temperature remained above freezing. Higher concentrations of the greenhouse gases CO2 and CH4 were likely responsible for keeping the early climate warm. CH4 concentrations of 1000 ppm or higher are predicted for the Late Archean/Paleoproterozoic atmosphere prior to the rise of O2. Photolysis of this CH4 may have created an optically thin organic haze during much of this time. The rise of O2 at 2.3 Ga eliminated most of the methane and probably triggered the Paleoproterozoic glaciations. CH4 concentrations could have remained elevated throughout much of the Proterozoic, however, as a consequence of low concentrations of dissolved O2 and sulfate in the deep oceans and a corresponding increase in organic matter recycling by fermentation and methanogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-129
Number of pages11
JournalPrecambrian Research
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 30 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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