Asteroids boiled young Earth’s oceans, remnant rocks suggest | Science News

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Asteroids boiled young Earth’s oceans, remnant rocks suggest

Early evolution may have been altered by high temperatures

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7:00am, May 15, 2015

BOILING SEAS  Huge asteroid impacts around 3.3 billion years ago boiled Earth’s oceans, new research suggests. Condensing rock vapor from the impacts left spherical bits of rock the size of BB pellets in the rock record, shown.

Asteroid impacts around 3.3 billion years ago may have created hell on Earth.

Rocks left over from Earth’s adolescence suggest that giant impacts boiled the oceans billions of years ago, lowering the global sea level by tens of meters. The huge amounts of energy released during the impacts increased air temperatures to more than 500° Celsius for weeks and above water’s boiling point for more than a year, researchers report online May 7 in Geology. These dramatic events would have shaped the evolution of early life on Earth, says geologist Donald Lowe of Stanford University.

“These impacts would have a profound influence on any life trying to evolve into more complex, low-temperature organisms,” says Lowe, the study’s lead author. “They’d keep getting whacked by these giant impactors and driven to extinction or near extinction.”

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