Scientists at the University of Southampton have found that changes in Earth’s orbit may have led to the emergence and prosperity of complex life during the most challenging climatic period on the planet.
The researchers studied a sequence of rocks that were deposited when most of the Earth’s surface was covered with ice during severe glaciation. The planet has been in this state for more than 50 million years, scientists call this period “Earth – a snowball”.
Snowball Earth is a hypothesis suggesting that the planet was completely covered in ice during part of the Cryogenic and Ediacaran periods of the Neoproterozoic era, as well as, possibly, in other geological eras.
“One of the most fundamental problems with the snowball theory of the Earth is that life seems to have survived during this period. So either the hypothesis itself is wrong, or life somehow survived a time of severe glaciation, ”said Thomas Hernon, assistant professor of Earth sciences at the University of Southampton and co-author of the study.
Scientists have investigated a kilometer-thick glacial cliff in South Australia that appeared about 700 million years ago. Geological data showed that changes in the Earth’s orbit led to an increase and decrease in ice sheets. This is what made it possible to periodically form ice-free areas on the snow-covered Earth.
The scientists’ findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.