What do you know about the Snowball Earth?

Consider this an informal poll – does the phrase “Snowball Earth” mean anything to you?
This is more aimed at those amongst my readership who are not professional rock-hounds. Also, “no” is an entirely acceptable answer: it’s the one I’ve got from virtually everyone I’ve tried to explain my new research to thus far – hence the question, since I thought that at some level it had gained a little traction in the public consciousness. If I was wrong, that’s an important thing to know.

Categories: geology, past worlds, Proterozoic, public science

Comments (70)

  1. Brian X says:

    To the best of my understanding it was a hypothesis that came out of the early days of chaos theory and weather simulations that turned out to be supported by geological evidence.

  2. eddie says:

    Way back in the pre-cambrian (my teenage years) I studied volcanos and glaciers as part of my geography o-grade. Also, around then I remenber reading a book of sci-fi shorts, exploring post nuclear war scenaria. One involved a snowball earth in which human survivors had evolved penguin like.
    I also saw the recent channel4 doc mentioned above, with v.o. by Baldrick. It was a very good presentation of the evidence, much in contrast to their gw swindle program.
    Also, as mentioned above, I have physicr degree but work in IT.

  3. Jude says:

    Nope. I know nothing about it. But I’m a librarian, so I can always look it up.

  4. Chris Nedin says:

    Yes – ex-Geo. Intense cryogenic event(s) ending around 650 mya, which marks the start of the Ediacaran Period. Initially overblown with claims that the whole Earth was ice-bound, including the oceans. But more recently proponents have equivocated, due mainly to lack of evidence. Certainly ice was occuring at low (tropical) latitudes on land, but no eveidence that the oceans were completely covered.
    The end of the episode had the efect of pump-priming the oceans with oxygen, which has some interesting effects, especially with regard to carbonate precipitation.

  5. Steve Gunnell says:

    Yep … New Scientist / Scientific American reader.
    Is it still in the contentious theory stage or has it become mainstream? The problem with reading NS is it can be hard to tell 8-(

  6. Yes – master student of geology. Like some people replied I do, however, not think that the entire earth was completely covered with ice. There must (I assume) have been significant, ice-free regions on the oceans or land, at least close to the equator or around volcanic centres. I am not into the subject though and should read more.

  7. Cheyenne says:

    Yes – undergrad in biology/geology, but also a voracious reader. So even if I had decided to study something else I’d still be a rock nerd at heart, and would have come across the idea sooner or later…

  8. Darren Ferdinando says:

    Yes – professional geologist. It’s my job to know about stuff like this :o)

  9. KAS says:

    Yes ~ a theory in regards to the Earth being completely encompassed with ice or snow- frozen. Though, scanning the above comments, I see that it is a theory of a particular period whereas I understood it as a cyclical happening.
    -Executive Asst to a Chair of a science dept. at Harvard
    I think your poll may be partial though :) as your readers are interested/follow or write on science topics.

  10. JAYSRI says:

    Yes. I wonder why none of the Proterozoic basins of India does not have some clues for it, except that reported from Bijawar basin and compiled by that UK Professor (Sorry, name is not coming to my mind at this time). May be the Blaini boulder bed of Neoproterozoic age of the Krol belt of Lesser Himalayas belong to this.

  11. Giles says:

    Yes. I remember reading about it a few years ago.
    Non-geologist, evolutionary computer geek

  12. rhr says:

    Yes, non-scientist. I can show that if you move Earth’s albedo up near ice moon territory the surface temp drops below 273 in a simple radiative transfer, suggesting the possibility of bistability…

  13. Scott M. says:

    Yes, but I’m a geologist so am supposed to have heard about strange episodes in earth history like this (though I usually look at *much* younger rocks) …

  14. Bill Bour says:

    Yes, I heard of Snowball Earth several years ago, but then I’m a geologist.

  15. S says:

    Yes, I’ve heard the term, but (as far as I recall) only in the sense that it could happen, or might possibly have happened, but there’s not much evidence for it. This probably means I don’t know much about it.
    I think I’ve always thought of it as an extra-severe ice age. The opposite of a greenhouse effect – with conditions more like Mars than Venus, in other words, but with more water.
    This is from a person with a high school education and a basic interest in science.

  16. Badger3k says:

    Whoa – just went back and saw that I never gave credentials. BA in Biology and teaching certification for High School Life Sciences, teaching science in an alternative/credit recovery program. It’ll be interesting to see what has developed from this hypothesis.

  17. maudyfish says:

    Yes, read the book written about “Snowball Earth” by Gabrielle Walker. First thing that comes to mind is an eccentric scientist name Paul Hoffman.
    Its a theory about a billion years ago, something triggered the Earth to cool down and freeze over. But, it has not been proven completely. Some suggest that there was a partial freeze where the tropical areas could absorb sunlight and in those pools life evolved once more.
    Have no professional background on this topic but I wish I did.

  18. Elizabeth Goeke says:

    I taught an introductory class last semester call “Earth, Life and Climate Through Time” and we spent almost a week discussing Snowball Earth. It turned into one of the major questions on the final exam (we hit it just before the end of the semester). Before that, I only had a dim idea about it–metamorphic petrologist who works mainly in the Paleozoic and Cenozoic.

  19. Ed T says:

    Yes, I have read about it in several articles. Non-geologist, just a CS guy who like reading and rocks.

  20. Theron says:

    Yes. I’m an historian, but also a science nut.