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Revolutions that made the Earth$
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Tim Lenton and Andrew Watson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199587049

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587049.001.0001

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The Great Oxidation

The Great Oxidation

(p.183) 10 The Great Oxidation
Revolutions that made the Earth

Tim Lenton

Andrew Watson

Oxford University Press

This chapter posits that the processes which set the steady-state concentration of oxygen have changed radically over time, and that when oxygenic photosynthesis first arose back in the Archean, the steady state was achieved at a very low concentration. This would be the ‘whiff’ of oxygen that appears to be present from around 2.7 billion years ago onwards. Sometime later, at the Great Oxidation, conditions changed so that oxygen molecules lasted longer in the atmosphere, resulting in much higher oxygen concentration, of about 1–10 per cent of the present day. Finally, much later still, conditions changed again, and the new steady state rose to values similar to the present day. The chapter describes the processes giving rise to the first two, lower steady states. The work it discusses was inspired by Jim Lovelock's simple model for the Great Oxidation.

Keywords:   steady-state concentration, oxygen, Archean, Great Oxidation, Jim Lovelock

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