Massive impact-induced release of carbon and sulfur gases in the early Earth's atmosphere

S. Marchi, B. A. Black, Linda Elkins-Tanton, W. F. Bottke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Recent revisions to our understanding of the collisional history of the Hadean and early-Archean Earth indicate that large collisions may have been an important geophysical process. In this work we show that the early bombardment flux of large impactors (>100 km) facilitated the atmospheric release of greenhouse gases (particularly CO2) from Earth's mantle. Depending on the timescale for the drawdown of atmospheric CO2, the Earth's surface could have been subject to prolonged clement surface conditions or multiple freeze-thaw cycles. The bombardment also delivered and redistributed to the surface large quantities of sulfur, one of the most important elements for life. The stochastic occurrence of large collisions could provide insights on why the Earth and Venus, considered Earth's twin planet, exhibit radically different atmospheres.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-104
Number of pages9
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Asteroid impacts
  • Early earth
  • Earth's atmosphere
  • Faint young Sun

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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