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Earth was a 'water world' 3 billion years ago


Posted on Monday, 2 March, 2020 | Comment icon 6 comments

Imagine the world without continents. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 Brocken Inaglory
Scientists now believe that the entire planet was covered in water and devoid of continents in the distant past.
It might sound like the plot of the 1995 Kevin Costner box office flop 'Waterworld', but according to a new study, the idea that the Earth was once completely covered in water may have serious merit.

To determine this, Boswell Wing from the University of Colorado, Boulder and Benjamin Johnson of Iowa State University examined a 3.2 billion-year-old slab of ocean floor in Australia's outback.

By analyzing the relative amounts of two oxygen isotopes, they were able to get an idea of the environmental conditions of our planet at around that time.
"Without continents above the ocean, the oxygen value would be distinct from today, which is exactly what we found," said Johnson. "And it's different in a way that's most easily explained without land to get rained on and without soil formation."

Although there wouldn't have been continents, there would have likely still been some smaller areas of land such as islands and rocky outcrops sticking out of the water.

"I imagine a picture kind of like what it must look like to approach the Galapagos Islands from the west: vast expanses of ocean waters to the north and south with small volcanic rocky islets barely poking above the ocean surface," said Wing.

Source: The Guardian | Comments (6)

Tags: Earth

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Piney on 2 March, 2020, 19:52
The whole planet was probably covered in a shallow ocean pre-plate tectonics. 
Comment icon #2 Posted by Orphalesion on 2 March, 2020, 21:25
We should have stayed an ocean world. *starts singing* Under the Sea...Under the Sea... There's no accusations, just friendly crustaceans Under the Seaaaaaaaa
Comment icon #3 Posted by Tuco's Gas on 2 March, 2020, 23:31
Hmm...this explains why tiny seashells keep clogging up my sprinkler system, even though I live in the middle of Texas.
Comment icon #4 Posted by qxcontinuum on 3 March, 2020, 3:20
Just curious: what happened with all that water?
Comment icon #5 Posted by simplybill on 3 March, 2020, 3:54
I remember a discussion about this a few years ago: “The water is locked up in a mineral called ringwoodite about 660km (400 miles) beneath the crust of the Earth, researchers say. Geophysicist Steve Jacobsen from Northwestern University in the US co-authored the study published in the journal Science and said the discovery suggested Earth’s water may have come from within, driven to the surface by geological activity, rather than being deposited by icy comets hitting the forming planet as held by the prevailing theories.” https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/jun/13/earth-may-have-undergro... [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by Festina on 3 March, 2020, 23:25
I hear Texas is great for fossil hunting— was told to bring a gun, rattlers everywhere.  Found many seashell fossils behind my house as a kid in NJ.   Didn’t have to dig for them, they were on the surface and  they were abundant.  The Water of LIFE.   


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