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Fractal Organic Hazes Provided an Ultraviolet Shield for Early Earth

Science  04 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5983, pp. 1266-1268
DOI: 10.1126/science.1183260

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Abstract

The Archean Earth (3.8 to 2.5 billion years ago) was probably enshrouded by a photochemical haze composed of fractal aggregate hydrocarbon aerosols. The fractal structure of the aerosols would have had a strong effect on the radiative properties of the haze. In this study, a fractal aggregate haze was found to be optically thick in the ultraviolet wavelengths while remaining relatively transparent in the mid-visible wavelengths. At an annual production rate of 1014 grams per year and an average monomer radius of 50 nanometers, the haze would have provided a strong shield against ultraviolet light while causing only minimal antigreenhouse cooling.

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