Snowball Earth: global catastrophe or the origin of life as we know it.

14/11/2017, 18:30 - 19:30

Free

Speaker: Professor Graham Shields-Zhou (UCL)

What began as a crazy idea – that our planet was once covered almost entirely by ice – is now widely accepted as fact. Snowball Earth happened twice between 720 and 635 million years ago, an interval referred to as the Cryogenian Period, which neatly separates the primordial microbial world from the one in which we live today. Science pinpoints the Cryogenian Period as the cradle of animal evolution, but it is hard to think of conditions less conducive to modern animals. In order to tackle this intractable puzzle, it helps  to view the Earth as a complex, evolving system, in which tectonic and biological events interacted via the carbon cycle in a form of evolutionary piggyback. Despite being a catastrophe, Snowball Earth played a pivotal role in how we evolved on this planet.

This lecture is part of the 2017-18 monthly series in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, looking at Catastrophes: past, present and potential.

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Catastrophes: Past, Present and Potential