“Snowball Earth” ended by methane – now an impossible theory

“Snowball Earth” ended by methane – now an impossible theory (May 26, 2011). It seems that, like the White Queen in Through the Looking-Glass, Anthony Watts tries to believe six impossible things before breakfast. We see how hard he tries pretty much daily, but his apparent copy and paste delight here over a Caltech paper in Nature is just routine self-delusional over-interpretation.

“A hydrothermal origin for isotopically anomalous cap dolostone cements from south China” is about cap dolostone sediments overlying 600 million year-old glacial deposits and controversially thought to be associated with microbial consumption of abundant methane. The paper concludes that the cap dolostone was deposited after the abrupt end of a prolonged glacial period (aka Snowball Earth), not as it ended. Also, those rocks seem to have been formed under abiotic high-temperature hydrothermal conditions.

Thus, in Anthony’s fixated mind, it is impossible for greenhouse gases to cause abrupt ancient warming. Some other unspecified thing did.

Strangely the primary theory of how Snowball Earth ended doesn’t revolve around ocean sediment methane discharge, which this research seems to disprove. The primary theory is based on evidence of increased volcanic CO2 and methane emissions (greenhouse gases!) which this research can be inferred to support. Hydrothermal environments are associated with volcanism.

Note to Anthony: arguing over “abrupt” ancient natural climate change, taking place over millions of years, is a weak criticism of evidence for man-made climate change taking place thousands of times faster.

2 thoughts on ““Snowball Earth” ended by methane – now an impossible theory

  1. Seems to me the paper only talks about the dolomites in south China, not about cap dolomites in general. Most of the cap carbonates I know of distinctly formed as surface deposits, not in a “very hot hydrothermal environment, underground” (there’s even an article just out by Greg Retallack interpreting them as subaerial, not marine sediments, which is apparently a fatally flawed interpretation).

    I did my undergrad mapping in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia, where the Nuccaleena Formation is the cap carbonate immediately, and probably conformably (i.e. no break in the stratigraphic record) overlying the Elatina Formation, which often contains characteristic glacial sediment facies; none of the formations overlying the Nuccaleena has any glacial features. The interpretation of the Nuccaleena for several decades at least was that it was abiogenically formed from carbonate precipitating out of the sea water in the super-greenhouse that immediately followed the super-icehouse of the Cryogenian (no talk about methanotrophs and clathrates). This was partly caused by CO2 having built up to gigantic levels before its heating effect was able to overcome the albedo effect of the huge ice sheets; so when the ice was gone and the climate got very hot, very quick, the ocean chemistry changed abruptly and the carbonate precipitated out very quickly.

    [Thanks for your insights. No question the paper’s proposed origin of the capstone is unusual, my quick point was simply that Anthony twists everything to “prove” what he believes. This paper perhaps undercuts a poorly-supported Snowball Earth mechanism, but says nothing about the prevalent theory or how greenhouse gases can interact with our climate. But for Anthony, it’s “another nail”. -Ben]

  2. I have to comment here on a recent post by Watts at Wattsupwiththat :

    “Oh noes! Giant thistle weeds a coming consequence of climate change, but another study says “maybe not””.

    I am not allowed to post anything on Watts’ site, because I pointed out errors in his arguments too many times.

    In this post, Watts tries to debunk a paper that says the Yellow Starthistle weed, an invasive species, will become more of a threat to the environment because it can grow to 6 times its current size in a high CO2 environment. The argument Watts uses as a counter is a non sequitor: – the spread of the Starthistle predates the era of high CO2.

    As always, Watts’ stupid argument was applauded by the acolytes who frequent the web site.

    [We’ll be covering that post in a few days. You’re welcome to comment here! – Ben]

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