Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

The rise of oxygen and the hydrogen hourglass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Author(s)

Kevin J. Zahnle, David C. Catling, Mark W. Claire

School/Research organisations

Abstract

Oxygenic photosynthesis appears to be necessary for an oxygen-rich atmosphere like Earth’s. But available geological and geochemical evidence suggest that at least 200 Myr, and possibly more than 700 Myr, elapsed between the advent of oxygenic photosynthesis and the establishment of an oxygen atmosphere. The interregnum implies that at least one other necessary condition for O2 needed to be met. Here we argue that the second condition was the oxidation of the surface and crust to the point where O2 became more stable than competing reduced gases such as CH4. The cause of Earth’s surface oxidation would be the same cause as it is for other planets with oxidized surfaces: hydrogen escape to space. The duration of the interregnum would have been determined by the rate of hydrogen escape and by the size of the reduced reservoir that needed to be oxidized before O2 became favored. We suggest that continental growth has been influenced by hydrogen escape, and we speculate that, if there must be an external bias to biological evolution, hydrogen escape can be that bias.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-34
Number of pages9
JournalChemical Geology
Issue number0
Early online date16 Aug 2013
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013

    Research areas

  • Oxygen , Hydrogen escape , Atmospheric evolution , Oxygenation , Evolution

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Long-term planetary habitability and the carbonate-silicate cycle

    Rushby, A. J., Johnson, M., Mills, B. J. W., Watson, A. J. & Claire, M. W. 1 May 2018 In : Astrobiology. 18, 5, p. 469-480 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Two-billion-year-old evaporites capture Earth's great oxidation

    Blättler, C., Claire, M., Prave, A. R., Zerkle, A. L. & Warke, M. R. 22 Mar 2018 In : Science. eaar2687

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Evaluation of the Tindouf Basin region in Southern Morocco as an analog site for soil geochemistry on Noachian Mars

    Oberlin, E. A., Claire, M. W. & Kounaves, S. 9 Feb 2018 In : Astrobiology. 18, 8

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. High-frequency fluctuations in redox conditions during the latest Permian mass extinction

    Mettam, C., Zerkle, A. L., Claire, M. W., Izon, G., Junium, C. J. & Twitchett, R. J. 1 Nov 2017 In : Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 485, p. 210-223

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Bias in carbon concentration and δ13C measurements of organic matter due to cleaning treatments with organic solvents

    Muller, É., Thomazo, C., Stüeken, E. E., Hallmann, C., Leider, A., Chaduteau, C., Buick, R., Baton, F., Philippot, P. & Ader, M. 24 Jun 2018 In : Chemical Geology. In press

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Carbonated mantle domains at the base of the Earth's transition zone

    Sun, W., Hawkesworth, C. J., Yao, C., Zhang, C., Huang, R., Liu, X., Sun, X., Ireland, T., Song, M., Ling, M., Ding, X., Zhang, Z., Fan, W. & Wu, Z. 5 Feb 2018 In : Chemical Geology. 478, p. 69-75

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Multiple sulphur isotope records tracking basinal and global processes in the 1.98 Ga Zaonega Formation, NW Russia

    Paiste, K., Lepland, A., Zerkle, A. L., Kirsimäe, K., Izon, G. J., Patel, N., McLean, F., Kreitsmann, T., Mänd, K., Bui, T., Romashkin, A., Rychanchik, D. & Prave, A. R. 19 Sep 2018 In : Chemical Geology. In press

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Quantification of paleo-aquifer changes using clumped isotopes in subaqueous carbonate speleothems

    Gázquez, F., Columbu, A., De Waele, J., Breitenbach, S. F. M., Huang, C. R., Shen, C. C., Lu, Y., Calaforra, J. M., Mleneck-Vautravers, M. J. & Hodell, D. A. 20 Aug 2018 In : Chemical Geology. 493, p. 246-257 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Highlights of the Goldschmidt Meeting, Heidelberg, 31 March–4 April 1996 in honor of A.W. Hofmann

    Hawkesworth, C. (ed.) & Arndt, N. (ed.) 1997 Chemical Geology, 139 360 p.

    Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationSpecial issue

ID: 66186008