Wanted: Cause of the End of “Snowball Earth”June 27th, 2011 by Sarah Pryputniewicz
A new study has been published disproving the previous explanation for the end of the Marinoan ice age, also known as “Snowball Earth.” That ice age ended abruptly about 600 million years ago.
The debunked explanation stated that methane bubbled up from the oceans and was consumed by microbes, which released carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, warming the Earth. Earlier scientists had interpreted “bubbles” in the rocks as evidence of the ancient microbial activity.
A new study on those rocks showed that they were formed under very high temperatures–temperatures at which no microbes are known to survive. In addition, better dating of the rocks showed that the “bubbles” were formed millions or tens of millions of years after the end of the ice age.
So scientists still don’t have an explanation for the end of “Snowball Earth.” But they do know a couple of things that didn’t cause the end of the ice age.
As scientists come up with new explanations for the end of the ice age, those explanations will be tested by other scientists. When explanations can be disproved with evidence, science moves forward. We may never discover the true cause of the end of “Snowball Earth,” but one thing’s for sure–we’ll know a lot more about how the Earth works by trying to craft a good explanation. That’s the way science works!