Science Seminars

10/3/2013 Seminar: Is the faint young Sun paradox solved?

Speaker: Eric Wolf (LASP)
Date: Sunday, Oct 03, 2021
Time: 4:00pm
Location: SPSC W120

Seminar Abstract:

How did the early Earth remain warm despite weak solar luminosity?  The faint young Sun paradox has stubbornly resisted a self-consistent solution since it was first introduced by Sagan and Mullen [1] over four decades ago.  However, recent revisions to expected paleo-ocean temperatures [2, 3] along with new results from three-dimensional climate models [4] may allow this long standing problem to be finally put to rest.  Here we use a modified version of the Community Atmosphere Model version 3 from the National Center for Atmospheric Research to study early climate.  We find that resolving the faint young Sun paradox becomes less problematic when viewing a full representation of the climate system.  For the late Archean climate (80% solar constant), relatively modest amounts of CO2 (0.02 bar) and CH4 (0.001 bar) yield surface temperatures equal to the present day with no other alterations to climate.  Cooler climates with large ice caps but with temperate tropical regions can be supported with considerably smaller greenhouse gas burdens.  The incorporation of systematic climate system elements expected for the Archean such as fewer cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) [5], reduced land albedos [5], and an increased atmospheric inventory of N2 [6], can provide a combined 10 to 20 K of additional surface warming given reasonable assumptions.  With the inclusion of 0.001 bar of CH4, 2 PAL of N2, reduced land albedos, and reduced CCN, present day mean surface temperatures can be maintained for the earliest Archean (75% solar constant) with only ~0.009 bar of CO2.  However, lower requirements for atmospheric CO2 may imply that photochemical hazes were frequent during the Archean.

[1] Sagan, C., & Mullen, G. Science 177, 52 (1972)

[2] Hren, M.T., Tice, M.M., & Chamberlin, C.P. Nature 462, 205 (2009)

[3] Blake. R.E., Chang, S.J., & Lepland, A. Nature 464, 1029 (2010)

[4] Wolf, E.T., & Toon, O.B. Astrobiology 13(7), 1 (2013)

[5] Rosing, M.T., Bird, D.K., Sleep, N.H., & Bjerrum, C.J. Nature 464, 744 (2010)

[6] Goldblatt, C., Claire, M.W., Lenton, T.M., Matthews, A.J., Watson, A.J. Nature Geoscience 2, 891 (2009)