So it became the Earth in a giant snow ball


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Makes about 717 million years ago, all the Earth estuba covered by a large layer of snow and ice. This is what is known as “Earth ball of snow”. During this event, which scientists believe occurred several times in the course of the history of the planet, the average temperatures reached fifty degrees below zero and the ice of the poles is extended to ecuador. A landscape at once magnificent and appalling. The trigger was probably a blocking sunlight caused by a cause still to be elucidated: perhaps massive volcanic eruptions that spewed aerosols into the atmosphere or algae primitive by some mechanism facilitated the formation of clouds that reflect the light.

Now, a team of researchers at MIT has developed a mathematical model sheds light on the formation of these eras of extreme cold. The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, concludes that the ice age global occur when the level of solar radiation that receives the planet’s surface changes rapidly over a period of time geologically short . That is to say, the amount of solar radiation does not have to decrease to a particular point but that the key is in the speed at which it does so.

In their model, the researchers included equations to represent the relationships between the incoming solar radiation and outgoing, the temperature of the surface of the Earth, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the effects on the absorption and storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The scientists were able to adjust each of these parameters to see what conditions generated a “Ground ball of snow”.

Finally, they discovered that it was more likely that a planet will freeze if the incoming solar radiation decreased rather quickly to reach a critical threshold or a particular level of sunlight. There is some uncertainty about what it would be exactly the critical rate, since the model is a simplified representation of the Earth’s climate. However, the team estimated that our world would have to experience a fall of around 2% of the sunlight incoming for a period of approximately 10,000 years to enter an ice age global. What are the causes? Probably the above-mentioned eruptions bulk or a biological process.

how Can we cause it ourselves?

These findings can teach us a lesson for the future. “Although mankind will not trigger a glaciation of snowball in our climate trajectory current, the existence of such ‘tipping point induced by the velocity’ at a global scale can continue to be of concern,” says Constantin Arnscheidt, Department of Science Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary (EAPS) and lead author of the study. “For example, teaches us that we must be careful with the speed at which we are modifying the climate of the Earth , not only with the magnitude of the change. There could be other inflection points induced by the speed that may be caused by the anthropogenic warming. Identify them and limit their fees to criticism is a worthy goal for future research”.

Regardless of the particular processes that led to the ice ages of the past, scientists are in agreement that the “Earth ball of snow” came out of a effect of “runaway” : a measure that reduces the incoming sunlight, the ice spreads from the poles toward the equator. As more ice covers the globe, the planet becomes more reflective, or more high in albedo, which further cools the surface to expand more ice. Eventually, if the ice reaches a certain degree, this becomes a process of uncontrolled, resulting in a global glaciation. Yes, the glacial world in the Earth are of a temporary nature, due to the carbon cycle of the planet.

In summary, scientists are in agreement that the formation of the “Earth ball of snow” has something to do with the balance between the incoming sunlight, the feedback of the albedo of ice and the global carbon cycle.

habitable Planets

The findings can also be applied to the search for life on other planets. Researchers have been interested in finding exoplanets within the habitable zone, a distance from its star that would be within a range of temperature that could support life. The new study suggests that these planets, like Earth, also could be frozen temporarily if the climate changes abruptly. Even if they are within a habitable zone, the planets similar to ours may be more susceptible to glaciation global than previously thought.

“we Could have a planet that stays well within the habitable zone classic, but if the incoming sunlight changes too fast, we might get a ‘Dirt ball of snow,'” says Arnscheidt. “What this underscores is the notion that there are many more nuances in the concept of habitability”, he says.

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