News of the WeekCLIMATOLOGY

A Refuge for Life on Snowball Earth

Science  26 May 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5470, pp. 1316
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5470.1316

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When a small group of geoscientists recently revived the snowball Earth hypothesis--the idea that the planet froze from pole to pole 600 million years ago--some scientists raised serious doubts about how early life could have weathered such a horrendous environmental catastrophe without suffering a mass extinction. Now climate modelers say that their most realistic models offer a possible resolution of the conundrum: In the tropics, climatic amplifiers built into clouds, winds, and currents may have counteracted the chilling effect of ice and snow.