PerspectiveEARTH HISTORY

The Rise of Atmospheric Oxygen

Science  03 Aug 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5531, pp. 819-820
DOI: 10.1126/science.1063811

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Summary

When did atmospheric oxygen rise to near present concentrations? And what led to this rise? As Kasting explains in his Perspective, recent results have provided stronger-than-ever evidence that the switch from an anoxic to an oxic atmosphere occurred around 2300 millions years ago, but researchers remain divided over the mechanism. Catling et al. resurrect a previously proposed mechanism involving hydrogen escape to space, with a couple of new twists. Whether their mechanism is viable depends on the oxidation state of the continental and oceanic crust at this crucial time of Earth's evolution.

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