Climate and ocean circulation in the aftermath of a Marinoan snowball Earth

Abstract

When a snowball Earth deglaciates through a very high atmospheric CO(2 )concentration, the resulting inflow of freshwater leads to a stably stratified ocean, and the strong greenhouse conditions drive the climate into a very warm state. Here, we use a coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model, applying different scenarios for the evolution of atmospheric CO2, to conduct the first simulation of the climate and the three-dimensional ocean circulation in the aftermath of the Marinoan snowball Earth. The simulations show that the strong freshwater stratification breaks up on a timescale of the order of 10(3) years, mostly independent of the applied CO2 scenario. This is driven by the upwelling of salty waters in high latitudes, mainly the Northern Hemisphere, where a strong circumpolar current dominates the circulation. In the warmest CO2 scenario, the simulated Marinoan supergreenhouse climate reaches a global mean surface temperature of about 30 degrees C under an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 15 x 10(3) parts per million by volume, which is a moderate temperature compared to previous estimates. Consequently, the thermal expansion of seawater causes a sea-level rise of only 8 m, with most of it occurring during the first 3000 years. Our results imply that the surface temperatures of that time were potentially not as threatening for early metazoa as previously assumed. Furthermore, the short destratification timescale found in this study implies that Marinoan cap dolos tones accumulated during the deglacial period, given that they were deposited under the influence of a freshwater environment

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