A Coupled Ecosystem-Climate Model for Predicting the Methane Concentration in the Archean Atmosphere

  • James F. KastingEmail author
  • Alexander A. Pavlov
  • Janet L. Siefert


A simple coupled ecosystem-climate model is described that canpredict levels of atmospheric CH4, CO2, and H2during the Late Archean, given observed constraints on Earth'ssurface temperature. We find that methanogenic bacteria shouldhave converted most of the available atmospheric H2 intoCH4, and that CH4 may have been equal in importance to CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Photolysis of this CH4 may have produced a hydrocarbon smog layer that would have shielded the surface from solar UV radiation. Methanotrophic bacteria would have consumed some of the atmospheric CH4,but they would have been incapable of reducing CH4 to modern levels. The rise of O2 around 2.3 Ga would have drastically reduced the atmospheric CH4 concentrationand may thereby have triggered the Huronian glaciation.

Archean atmosphere Archean ecosystems atmospheric methane methanogenic bacteria paleoclimate 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • James F. Kasting
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alexander A. Pavlov
    • 1
  • Janet L. Siefert
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of GeosciencesPenn State UniversityUniversity Park
  2. 2.Department of StatisticsRice UniversityHouston

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