Since its formation about 4.5 billion years ago, the Earth’s rotation has gradually slowed down and, as a result, its days have become progressively longer.
According to the Science Alert website, although this Earth slowdown is not noticeable on our time scales, it is enough to cause significant changes. One of them, according to new research, and the most important for us, is that the lengthening of days is related to the oxygenation of the Earth’s atmosphere.
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Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, emerged and spread across the planet 2.4 billion years ago. Thus, even very old, they are able to produce more oxygen as a metabolic by-product.
“However, a persistent question in Earth science is how the planet’s atmosphere gets its oxygen and what factors are controlled when that oxygenation occurs,” said microbiologist Gregory Dick of the University of Michigan.
Brian Arbic, an oceanographer at the University of Michigan, wondered why the cyanobacteria day window pumps oxygen in a limited way. “It’s possible that a similar type of competition between microbes contributed to the delay in oxygen production on the early Earth,” explained Judith Klatt of the Institute of Marine Microbiology in Germany.
“Our research suggests that the rate at which the Earth is rotating – in other words, the length of the day – may have had a major effect on the planet’s oxygenation pattern and timing.” About this story, we cannot ignore two important points.
The first one we already know, the Earth’s rotation is slowing down, however, why does this happen? The Moon exerts a gravitational pull on the planet, causing a rotational deceleration, considering the fact that it is moving away little by little.
Based on fossil records, which serve as indicators to understand the Earth’s rotation, the days were composed of just 18 hours, 1.4 billion years ago. All things considered, therefore, we’re gaining 1.8 milliseconds per century, which influences the way things work today.
“Intuition suggests that two 12-hour days should be similar to a 24-hour day. In other words, sunlight rises and falls twice as fast, and oxygen production keeps pace,” concluded Arjun Chenn. Arjun is a marine scientist at the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Research in Germany.
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