1 Billion years ago

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Cyanobacteria absorb carbon dioxide and add oxygen to atmosphere






Longer and larger cycles of warming and cooling swing between a frozen planet and a warm Earth.  Land plants have yet to evolve.  Carbon dioxide levels are several times higher than currently, feeding an ocean soup of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae.  The sky is empty.  Ocean algae slowly absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen that gradually changes the atmosphere, bringing temperatures down.  As they die, their organic bodies drift down in shallow seas, creating large reservoirs of carbon.


These reservoirs of oil and gas, we now dig up, pump into our cars, and burn, releasing carbon into the atmosphere, which has been dormant for hundreds of millions of years.

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Rodinia with approximate location of constituent continents

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Adapted from Adapted from: Chao Liu/EarthByte
High CO2 ~ 2000 ppm



7.8 billion in 2021

CO2 concentration

415 parts per million in 2021

Average Temperature

15° C in 2021

Sea Level 

in hundreds of meters from datum in 1900

End of 'Snowball Earth' period of extreme climate cycles

Cambrian Explosion of multi-cellular organisms

Ordovian Extinction

Devonian Extinction

Permian Extinction

Triassic Extinction

Temperature high over 30°C

Sea Level high over 200 meters with shifting continental plates

Millions of Years

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Image: Photo by author.  Photo of cosmos credit: Astrobackyard.com

Map: Blakey, R. "Global Paleogeography and Tectonics in Deep Time Series." 2019 https://deeptimemaps.com

Carnegie Science. (2015). "One of the Supercontinents is different from the others (It’s Rodinia)."   Retrieved 23 September 2018, 2018, from https://carnegiescience.edu/news/one-supercontinents-different-others-it%E2%80%99s-rodinia.

CO2: Foster, G.L; Royer, D.L.; Lunt, D.J, (2017) "Future climate forcing potentially without precedent in the last 420 million years" Nature Communications 8 (1) 14845 https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms14845

Temperature: Veizer, J.; Prokoph (2015) "Temperatures and isotopic composition of Phanerozoic oceans" Earth-Science Reviews 146: 92-104. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earscirev.2015.03.008

Temperature and Sea Level: James Hansen, M. S., Gary Russell, Pushker Kharecha (2013). "Climate sensitivity, sea level and atmospheric carbon dioxide." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences 371(20120294). http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2012.0294

Sea Level: Miller, K. G., M. A. Kominz, J. V. Browning, J. D. Wright, G. S. Mountain, M. E. Katz, P. J. Sugarman, B. S. Cramer, N. Christie-Blick and S. F. Peka (2005). "The Phanerozoic Record of Global Sea-Level Change." Science 310(5752): 1293-1298. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1116412