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Oxygen flooded Earth’s atmosphere earlier than thought

Volcanism and global glaciation coincided to the gas’s rise

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3:45pm, February 6, 2017
Banded iron

OXYGEN’S ORIGINS  The rise of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, known as the Great Oxidation Event, began around 100 million years earlier than previously thought, new research suggests. The oxygen’s presence left a mark in the geologic record, such as this 2.1-billion-year-old banded iron formation.

The breath of oxygen that enabled the emergence of complex life kicked off around 100 million years earlier than previously thought, new dating suggests.

Previous studies pegged the first appearance of relatively abundant oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere, known as the Great Oxidation Event, or GOE, at a little over 2.3 billion years ago. New dating of ancient volcanic outpourings, however, suggests that oxygen levels began a wobbly upsurge between 2.460 billion and 2.426 billion years ago, researchers report the week of February 6 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

That time difference is a big deal, says study coauthor and sedimentary geologist Andrey Bekker of the University of California, Riverside. The new date shakes up scientists’ understanding of the environmental conditions that led to the GOE, which prompted the evolution of oxygen-dependent life-forms called

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