Earth Receives 2.3 Billion Year Reprieve: Before Frying to a Crisp

June 2, 2009

(ChattahBox)—Great news! A group of scientists at Caltech believe Earth won’t fry to a crisp for at least another 2.3 billion years, which is a more generous doomsday estimate than previous calculations by more than 1 billion years. We can all rest easy now, knowing that our cataclysmic end when we all become incinerated into dust is coming much later than expected.

Head Caltech researcher King Fai Li, has theorized that previous estimates of Earth becoming inhabitable one billion years form now, failed to account for the changes in atmospheric pressure, which Li believes has always varied.

The researchers calculated, based on the existence of Earth’s biosphere that the atmospheric pressure will drop in the future, adding to the life span of Earth. It’s important to consider atmospheric pressure, because it regulates the temperature of the planet, by controlling the levels of infrared radiation absorbed by greenhouse gases.

Higher pressures trigger increased absorption resulting in greater heat, with lower pressures producing less heat. All life forms on earth may contribute towards lowering pressures by absorbing nitrogen and depositing it into the vast oceans.

Li and his team caution their calculations are not foolproof, as they suffer from the lack of accurate historical data on atmospheric pressure in the Earth’s distant past. Nevertheless, the researchers believe the biosphere and life activity has the capacity to change atmospheric pressure.

This theory leads to the speculation that despite previous beliefs, the Earth’s atmospheric pressure has not always been the same.

The work of another scientists may just help Li and his team prove their theories. Roger Buick, an astrobiologist at the University of Washington is hot on the trail of 2.7 billion year-old basalt rocks in Northwestern Australia and other locations, which may hold the key to the atmospheric pressures from Earth’s past.

Gas bubbles trapped in the rocks may provide the answer. Smaller bubbles indicate lower pressure and, larger ones mean higher atmospheric pressure. Buick believes the basalt rocks in question, were formed at sea level, which means the variation in the bubble size is an indication of atmospheric pressure and not elevation.

Li’s team of researchers are awaiting to hear of the results of Buick’s unique basalt rock study and are hopeful the data will support their theories of changing atmospheric pressure.



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