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Chance played a role in determining whether Earth stayed habitable

Chance played a role in determining whether Earth stayed habitable
Chance played a role in determining whether Earth stayed habitable
Geological data demonstrate that Earth’s climate has remained continuously habitable throughout ~3 billion years. This presents a puzzle (the ‘habitability problem’) because loss of habitability appears to have been more likely. Solar luminosity has increased by 30% over this time, which would, if not somehow counteracted, have caused sterility. Furthermore, Earth’s climate is precariously balanced, potentially able to deteriorate to deep-frozen conditions within as little as 1 million years. Here I present results from a novel simulation in which thousands of planets were given randomly generated climate feedbacks and tested to see if they stayed habitable. The conventional view attributes Earth’s extended habitability solely to stabilising mechanisms. The simulation results shown here reveal instead that chance also plays a role in outcomes and therefore that Earth’s 3 billion years of habitability was most likely a contingent rather than an inevitable outcome.
Tyrrell, Toby
6808411d-c9cf-47a3-88b6-c7c294f2d114
Tyrrell, Toby
6808411d-c9cf-47a3-88b6-c7c294f2d114

Tyrrell, Toby (2020) Chance played a role in determining whether Earth stayed habitable. Communications Earth & Environment. (doi:10.1038/s43247-020-00057-8).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Geological data demonstrate that Earth’s climate has remained continuously habitable throughout ~3 billion years. This presents a puzzle (the ‘habitability problem’) because loss of habitability appears to have been more likely. Solar luminosity has increased by 30% over this time, which would, if not somehow counteracted, have caused sterility. Furthermore, Earth’s climate is precariously balanced, potentially able to deteriorate to deep-frozen conditions within as little as 1 million years. Here I present results from a novel simulation in which thousands of planets were given randomly generated climate feedbacks and tested to see if they stayed habitable. The conventional view attributes Earth’s extended habitability solely to stabilising mechanisms. The simulation results shown here reveal instead that chance also plays a role in outcomes and therefore that Earth’s 3 billion years of habitability was most likely a contingent rather than an inevitable outcome.

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Accepted/In Press date: 5 November 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 11 December 2020

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 445510
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/445510
PURE UUID: ec947a76-4fe7-4f14-b18f-1e24f8c81fdc
ORCID for Toby Tyrrell: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-1002-1716

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Date deposited: 14 Dec 2020 17:30
Last modified: 18 Feb 2021 16:46

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