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Carbon dioxide warming of the early EarthSvante Arrhenius' research in atmospheric physics extended beyond the recent past and the near future states of the Earth, which today are at the center of sociopolitical attention. His plan encompassed all of the physical phenomena known at the time to relate to the formation and evolution of stars and planets. His two-volume textbook on cosmic physics is a comprehensive synopsis of the field. The inquiry into the possible cause of the ice ages and the theory of selective wavelength filter control led Arrhenius to consider the surface states of the other terrestrial planets, and of the ancient Earth before it had been modified by the emergence of life. The rapid escape of hydrogen and the equilibration with igneous rocks required that carbon in the early atmosphere prevailed mainly in oxidized form as carbon dioxide, together with other photoactive gases exerting a greenhouse effect orders of magnitude larger than in our present atmosphere. This effect, together with the ensuing chemical processes, would have set the conditions for life to evolve on our planet, seeded from spores spreading through an infinite Universe, and propelled, as Arrhenius thought, by stellar radiation pressure.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Arrhenius, G. (Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0220, United States)
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
February 1, 1997
Publication Information
Publication: Ambio
Volume: 26
Issue: 1
ISSN: 0044-7447
Subject Category
Meteorology and Climatology
Distribution Limits
NASA Discipline Exobiology
Non-NASA Center