Early Earth: Dynamics, Geology, Chemistry and Life in the Archean Earth



Processes responsible for formation and development of the early Earth (> 2500Ma) are not well understood and strongly debated, reflecting in part the poorly preserved, altered, and incomplete nature of the geological record from this time.
In this session we encourage the presentation of new approaches and models for the development of Earth's early crust and mantle and their methods of interaction. We encourage contributions from the study of the preserved rock archive as well as geodynamic models of crustal and mantle dynamics so as to better understand the genesis and evolution of continental crust and the stabilization of cratons.
We invite abstracts from a large range of disciplines including geodynamics, geology, geochemistry, and petrology but also studies of early atmosphere, biosphere and early life relevant to this period of Earth history.

Co-organized by AS4/BG5/CL1/GMPV3
Convener: Ria Fischer | Co-conveners: Peter A. Cawood, Nicholas Gardiner, Antoine Rozel, Jeroen van Hunen
vPICO presentations
| Mon, 26 Apr, 11:00–12:30 (CEST)

vPICO presentations: Mon, 26 Apr

Chairpersons: Ria Fischer, Jeroen van Hunen
Richard Palin and M. Santosh

The theory of plate tectonics is widely accepted by scientists and provides a robust framework with which to describe and predict the behavior of Earth’s rigid outer shell – the lithosphere – in space and time. Expressions of plate tectonic interactions at the Earth’s surface also provide critical insight into the machinations of our planet’s inaccessible interior, and allow postulation about the geological characteristics of other rocky bodies in our solar system and beyond. Formalization of this paradigm occurred at a landmark Penrose conference in 1969, representing the culmination of centuries of study, and our understanding of the “what”, “where”, “why”, and “when” of plate tectonics on Earth has continued to improve since. Here, we summarize the major discoveries that have been made in these fields and present a modern-day holistic model for the geodynamic evolution of the Earth that best accommodates key lines of evidence for its changes over time. Plate tectonics probably began at a global scale during the Mesoarchean (c. 2.9–3.0 Ga), with firm evidence for subduction in older geological terranes accounted for by isolated plate tectonic ‘microcells’ that initiated at the heads of mantle plumes. Such early subduction likely operated at shallow angles and was short-lived, owing to the buoyancy and low rigidity of hotter oceanic lithosphere. A transitional period during the Neoarchean and Paleoproterozoic/Mesoproterozoic was characterized by continued secular cooling of the Earth’s mantle, which reduced the buoyancy of oceanic lithosphere and increased its strength, allowing the angle of subduction at convergent plate margins to gradually steepen. The appearance of rocks during the Neoproterozoic (c. 0.8–0.9 Ga) diagnostic of subduction do not mark the onset of plate tectonics, but simply record the beginning of modern-style cold, deep, and steep subduction that is an end-member state of an earlier, hotter, mobile lid regime

How to cite: Palin, R. and Santosh, M.: Plate tectonics: what, where, why, and when?, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-560,, 2021.

Archean geodynamics
Andrea Piccolo, Boris Kaus, Richard White, Nicolas Arndt, and Nicolas Riel

In the plate tectonic convection regime, the external lid is subdivided into discrete plates that move independently. Although it is known that the system of plates is mainly dominated by slab-pull forces, it is not yet clear how, when and why plate tectonics became the dominant geodynamic process in our planet. It could have started during the Meso-Archean (3.0-2.9 Ga). However, it is difficult to conceive a subduction driven system at the high mantle potential temperatures (Tp) that are thought to have existed around that time, because Tp controls the thickness and the strength of the compositional lithosphere making subduction unlikely. In recent years, however, a credible solution to the problem of subduction initiation during the Archean has been advanced, invoking a plume-induced subduction mechanism[1] that seems able to generate plate-tectonic like behaviour to first order. However, it has not yet been demonstrated how these tectonic processes interact with each other, and whether they are able to eventually propagate to larger scale subduction zones.

The Archean Eon was characterized by a high Tp[2], which generates weaker plates, and a thick and chemically buoyant lithosphere. In these conditions, slab pull forces are inefficient, and most likely unable to be transmitted within the plate. Therefore, plume-related proto-plate tectonic cells may not have been able to interact with each other or showed a different interaction as a function of mantle potential temperature and composition of the lithosphere. Moreover, due to secular change of Tp, the dynamics may change with time. In order to understand the complex interaction between these tectonic seeds it is necessary to undertake large scale 3D numerical simulations, incorporating the most relevant phase transitions and able to handle complex constitutive rheological model.

Here, we investigate the effects of the composition and Tp independently to understand the potential implications of the interaction of plume-induced subduction initiation. We employ a finite difference visco-elasto-plastic thermal petrological code using a large-scale domain (10000 x 10000 x 1000 km along x, y and z directions) and incorporating the most relevant petrological phase transitions. We prescribed two oceanic plateaus bounded by subduction zones and we let the negative buoyancy and plume-push forces evolve spontaneously. The paramount question that we aim to answer is whether these configurations allow the generation of stable plate boundaries. The models will also investigate whether the presence of continental terrain helps to generate plate-like features and whether the processes are strong enough to generate new continental terrains or assemble them



[1]       T. V. Gerya, R. J. Stern, M. Baes, S. V. Sobolev, and S. A. Whattam, “Plate tectonics on the Earth triggered by plume-induced subduction initiation,” Nature, vol. 527, no. 7577, pp. 221–225, 2015.

[2]       C. T. Herzberg, K. C. Condie, and J. Korenaga, “Thermal history of the Earth and its petrological expression,” Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., vol. 292, no. 1–2, pp. 79–88, 2010.

[3]       R. M. Palin, M. Santosh, W. Cao, S.-S. Li, D. Hernández-Uribe, and A. Parsons, “Secular metamorphic change and the onset of plate tectonics,” Earth-Science Rev., p. 103172, 2020.

How to cite: Piccolo, A., Kaus, B., White, R., Arndt, N., and Riel, N.: Emergence of plate tectonic during the Archean: insights from 3D numerical modelling., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-8809,, 2021.

Prasanna Gunawardana, Gabriele Morra, Priyadarshi Chowdhury, and Peter Cawood

The tectonic regime of the early Earth is crucial to understand how interior and exterior elements of the Earth interacted to make our planet habitable (Cawood et al., 2018). Our understanding of the processes involved is far from complete, particularly about how the switch between non-plate tectonic and plate tectonic regimes may have happened during the Archean. In this study, we investigate how Archean subduction events (albeit isolated and intermittent) may have evolved within/from a stagnant-lid regime. We perform 2D numerical modelling of mantle convection (using Underworld2) under a range of conditions appropriate for the early-to-mid Archean Earth including hotter mantle potential temperature and internal heat production. Using the models, we evaluate how the mantle temperature and viscosity, buoyancy force, surface heat flow and surface velocity may have evolved over a duration of ~800-1000 million years.

Our models indicate that lithospheric drips are an efficient way of releasing a large amount of heat from the Earth’s surface over a short period of time. Repeated occurrences of dripping events result in average mantle temperature gradually decreasing. Concomitant with this thermal evolution, the drip dimensions grew to form large, symmetrical drips as well as occasional, asymmetric subduction type events. The subduction events lead to large-scale resurfacing of the lithosphere. We surmise that the decreasing of average mantle temperature: (1) increases the temperature dependent viscosity of the mantle, and 2) decreases the buoyancy forces of mantle convection. Both these factors lower the convective vigour and increases the lithospheric (the upper thermal boundary layer) thickness via decreasing the effective Rayleigh number. These changes in the lithosphere-asthenosphere system facilitate the transition from a dripping dominated regime to a mix of large-dripping and intermittent subduction regime over a period of ~1 billon years. This change in tectonic setting is predicted to alter surface velocity patterns, surface heat flux and production rate of felsic magmas, which allows the modelling results can be tested against the rock record.


Cawood, P. A., Hawkesworth, C. J., Pisarevsky, S. A., Dhuime, B., Capitanio, F. A., and Nebel, O., 2018, Geological archive of the onset of plate tectonics: Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences, v. 376, no. 2132.

How to cite: Gunawardana, P., Morra, G., Chowdhury, P., and Cawood, P.: What led to episodic subduction during the Archean?, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-983,, 2021.

Charitra Jain, Antoine Rozel, Emily Chin, and Jeroen van Hunen
Geophysical, geochemical, and geological investigations have attributed the stable behaviour of Earth's continents to the presence of strong and viscous cratons underlying the continental crust. The cratons are underlain by thick and cold mantle keels, which are composed of melt-depleted and low density peridotite residues [1]. Progressive melt extraction increases the magnesium number Mg# in the residual peridotite, thereby making the roots of cratons chemically buoyant [2, 3] and counteracting their negative thermal buoyancy. Recent global models have shown the production of Archean continental crust by two-step mantle differentiation, however this primordial crust gets recycled and no stable continents form [4]. This points to the missing ingredient of cratonic lithosphere in these models, which could act as a stable basement for the crustal material to accumulate on and may also help with the transition of global regime from "vertical tectonics'' to "horizontal tectonics''. Based on the bulk FeO and MgO content of the residual peridotites, it has been proposed that cratonic mantle formed by hot shallow melting with mantle potential temperature, which was higher by 200-300 °C than present-day [5]. We introduce Fe-Mg partitioning between mantle peridotite and melt to track the Mg# variation through melting, and parametrise craton formation using the corresponding P-T formation conditions. Using self-consistent global convection models, we show the dynamic formation of cratons as a result of naturally occurring lateral compression and thickening of the lithosphere, which has been suggested by geochemical and petrological data. To allow for the material to compact and thicken, but prevent it from collapsing under its own weight, a combination of lithospheric strength, plastic yielding, dehydration strengthening, and depletion-induced density reduction of the depleted mantle material is necessary.
 [1] Boyd, F. R. High-and low-temperature garnet peridotite xenoliths and their possible relation to the lithosphere- asthenosphere boundary beneath Africa. In Nixon, P. H. (ed.) Mantle Xenolith, 403–412 (John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 1987).
[2] Jordan, T. H. Mineralogies, densities and seismic velocities of garnet lherzolites and their geophysical implications. In The Mantle Sample: Inclusion in Kimberlites and Other Volcanics, 1–14 (American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C., 1979).
[3] Schutt, D. L. & Lesher, C. E. Effects of melt depletion on the density and seismic velocity of garnet and spinel lherzolite. Journal of Geophysical Research 111 (2006).
[4] Jain, C., Rozel, A. B., Tackley, P. J., Sanan, P. & Gerya, T. V. Growing primordial continental crust self-consistently in global mantle convection models. Gondwana Research 73, 96–122 (2019).
[5] Lee, C.-T. A. & Chin, E. J. Calculating melting temperatures and pressures of peridotite protoliths: Implications for the origin of cratonic mantle. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 403, 273–286 (2014)

How to cite: Jain, C., Rozel, A., Chin, E., and van Hunen, J.: Numerical Insights into the Formation and Stability of Cratons, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-5386,, 2021.

Composition and structure of cratons
Sophie Miocevich, Alex Copley, and Owen Weller

High-grade Archean gneiss terranes expose mid to lower crustal rocks and are generally dominated by tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite (TTG) gneisses. Occurrences of mafic-ultramafic bodies and garnet-bearing felsic gneisses within these environments have been interpreted as supracrustal or near-surface rocks requiring a tectonic process involving mass transfer from the near-surface to the mid-crust. However, there is significant uncertainty regarding the nature of this mass transfer, with suggestions including a range of uniformitarian and non-uniformitarian scenarios.  One non-uniformitarian scenario, ‘sagduction’, has been proposed as a possible mechanism (Johnson et al., 2016, and references therein), although the dynamics of sagduction are still relatively unexplored.

This study focuses on mafic, ultramafic and garnet-bearing felsic gneiss bodies in the central region in the Lewisian Gneiss Complex of northwest Scotland as test cases to investigate the behaviour of possibly supracrustal rocks in a mid-crustal environment. Existing datasets of TTGs (Johnson et al., 2016), mafic gneisses (Feisel et al., 2018) and ultramafic gneisses (Guice et al., 2018) from across the central region were utilised in addition to felsic and mafic gneiss samples obtained in this study from the ~10 km2 Cnoc an t-Sidhean (CAS) suite. The CAS suite is the largest reported supracrustal in the Lewisian, and dominantly comprises garnet-biotite felsic gneiss assemblages and an associated two-pyroxene mafic gneiss. Field mapping was undertaken to collect samples representative of the observed heterogeneity of the suite, and to assess field associations between possible supracrustals and surrounding TTGs. Phase equilibria modelling was conducted on all lithologies to ascertain peak pressure-temperature (P-T) conditions, and to calculate the density of the modelled rocks at peak conditions.

The results obtained in this study indicate peak metamorphic conditions of 950 ± 50 °C and 9 ± 1 kbar for the CAS suite, consistent with the central region of the Lewisian Complex (Feisel et al., 2018). Density contrasts at mid-crustal conditions of 0.12–0.56 gcm-3 were calculated between TTGs and the other lithologies and used to estimate the buoyancy force that drives density-driven segregation. This allowed us to investigate the rates of vertical motion that result from density contrasts, as a function of the effective viscosity during metamorphism. Independent viscosity estimates were attained using mineral flow-laws and our estimated P-T conditions, and from examination of modern-day regions of crustal flow. We were therefore able to estimate the conditions under which sagduction could have been a viable mechanism for crustal evolution in the Lewisian and similar high-grade metamorphic terranes. We conclude that sagduction was unlikely to have operated in the Lewisian under the dry conditions implied by preserved mineral assemblages.



Feisel, Y., et al. 2018. New constraints on granulite facies metamorphism and melt production in the Lewisian Complex, northwest Scotland. Journal of Metamorphic Geology. 36, 799-819

Guice, G.L., et al. 2018. Assessing the Validity of Negative High Field Strength-Element Anomalies as a Proxy for Archaean Subduction: Evidence from the Ben Strome Complex, NW Scotland. Geosciences, 8, 338.

Johnson, T.E., et al. 2016. Subduction or sagduction? Ambiguity in constraining the origin of ultramafic–mafic bodies in the Archean crust of NW Scotland. Precambrian Research, 283, 89-105.

How to cite: Miocevich, S., Copley, A., and Weller, O.: How did the Archean crust evolve? Insights from the structure and petrology of the Lewisian of Scotland, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7477,, 2021.

Lanita Gutieva, Annika Dziggel, Silvia Volante, and Tim Johnson

The Lewisian Gneiss Complex (LGC) in NW Scotland, a classic example of Archean lower crust, is mostly composed of deformed and metamorphosed tonalite–trondhjemite–granodiorite (TTG) gneisses, gneissose granite sheets, and subordinate mafic, ultramafic, and metasedimentary lithologies. It has been traditionally subdivided into three regions that are interpreted to record discrete ages and metamorphic histories, and which are separated by crustal-scale shear zones. A smear of concordant U–Pb zircon ages from the granulite-facies central region has been interpreted to record metamorphic resetting of earlier magmatic and granulite facies metamorphic ages during a subsequent high-temperature metamorphic event. Here, we present U–Pb and Hf isotope data collected via laser-ablation split-stream (LASS) analyses of zircon cores from twenty-seven felsic meta-igneous rocks from the northern, southern, and central regions of the LGC, as well as U–Pb data from zircon rims within most of those samples.

In samples from the northern and southern regions, the crystallization age (i.e., from zircon cores) was calculated from the upper-intercept age, yielding age range of 2.82-2.63 Ga for the northern, and 3.11–2.63 Ga for the southern region. Zircons in these samples generally have thin or no rims, suggesting an absence of a prolonged high-grade (granulite facies) metamorphic event in those regions. In the central region, zircon cores yield U–Pb crystallization ages between ca. 3.0 Ga and 2.7 Ga, while zircon rims define a continuous spread of ages from ca. 2.8 to 2.4 Ga. Overall, the central region exhibits a continuous and overlapping smear of zircon core and rim ages, suggesting a protracted thermal event in which high-ultrahigh temperature conditions were maintained for >200 m.y., and that discrete magmatic and metamorphic ‘events’ are difficult to identify. Nevertheless, an estimation of the crystallization age of each sample is crucial for interpreting their Lu–Hf isotopic signature. Zircon cores from the tonalite–trondhjemite gneisses have broadly chondritic compositions with a range of calculated mean initial εHf of +2.5 to –1.2, potentially reflecting a mixture of juvenile material and reworked crust, with one outlier at εHfi = +4.5 perhaps indicating a renewed influx of juvenile magma. Granite gneisses also have near-chondritic values, although the range is larger and the two youngest granite gneisses have slightly sub-chondritic εHfi (–1.5 and –2.5), which indicates that pre-existing crust was involved in their formation. Since there is no significant difference in the Hf isotopic composition between rocks from the three regions, or between the TTG and granite gneisses, we suggest that the broadly chondritic εHfi in most of our samples reflects mixing of both depleted mantle and evolved crust during their generation. Despite the similarity of the U-Pb and εHf data from the three regions, the data do not allow to unambiguously discriminate whether the LGC is composed of different levels of a once continuous Archean continent or discrete microcontinents that were amalgamated in the late Archean to Paleoproterozoic.

How to cite: Gutieva, L., Dziggel, A., Volante, S., and Johnson, T.: Zircon U-Pb and Lu-Hf record from the Archean Lewisian Gneiss Complex, NW Scotland, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15688,, 2021.

Natalia Seliutina, Oleg Safonov, Vasiliy Yapaskurt, Dmitry Varlamov, Igor Sharygin, and Konstantin Konstantinov

This study provides the results of research of the garnet-biotite crustal xenoliths from the Yubileinaya (372±4.8 Ma) and Sytykanskaya (363±13 Ma) kimberlite pipes of the Alakit-Markhinsky field (Siberian craton). Isotopic evidence on zircons from similar crustal xenoliths (Grt+Bt+Pl+Kfs+Qtz±Scp) showed Archean Hf model ages (TDM = 3.13-2.5 Ga) and thus indicated that most of the lower and middle crust beneath the Markha terrane was produced in the Archean time (Shatsky et al., 2016).

The xenoliths are represented by the assemblage Grt+Bt+Pl+Kfs±Opx. Quartz is present only as rare inclusions in garnets. The rocks are coarse-grained, slightly foliated with garnets porphyroblasts of up to 5 cm in size. A spectacular feature of the rocks is an abundance of K-feldspar. Garnet grains are almost compositionally homogeneous, although they show a rimward decrease of the Mg and Ca contents indicating exchange reactions during cooling. Biotites are characterized by high F increasing from 1.5 wt.% in cores up to 2.2 wt.% in rims, as well as TiO2 up to 7.8 wt.%, which is typical for high-grade rocks. Orthopyroxene (up to 5.5 wt. % Al2O3) relics are preserved both as inclusions in garnet and as individual grains in the rock matrix. Plagioclase occurs both as separate grains and as lamellae in potassium feldspar.

The bulk chemical compositions correspond to a metagraywacke. The REE spectra in these rocks are rather flat with slight enrichment in LREE. All the studied rocks are characterized by a distinct negative Eu anomaly (Eu/Eu* = 0.31-0.45).

Calculations using the PERPLEX software version 6.7.6 (Connolly, 2005) for Mg and Ca in Grt, Mg in Bt, and Ca in Pl indicated temperatures 630-730°C and pressures 5.8-7.2 kbar for the rocks. However, equilibria involving Al2O3 in orthopyroxene corresponds to temperatures of 750-800oС at a similar pressure. It indicates that metamorphism of the garnet-biotite rocks reached higher temperatures, but they were actively modified later during cooling and insignificant decompression (by about 1 kbar). Calculations using the TWQ software version 2.3 (Berman, 2007) indicate consistent temperatures 610-680°C for the garnet-orthopyroxene and 640-690oC for garnet-biotite Mg-Fe exchange equilibria. Calculations using the Grs+2Prp+Kfs+H2O=Phl+3En+3An equilibrium demonstrated water activity below 0.1. Such low water activity could indicate an influence of highly concentrated alkaline Cl-F-bearing brines. This assumption is confirmed by extensive development of potassium feldspar, absence of quartz in the matrix, and elevated Cl contents of biotite, 0.1-0.3 wt. % at high #Mg (>0.7) and F content.

The study is supported by the Russian Science Foundation project 18-17-00206.


Berman, R. G. (2007). winTWQ (version 2.3): a software package for performing internally-consistent thermobarometric calculations. Geological survey of Canada, open file, 5462, 41.

Connolly, T. M., & Begg, C. E. (2005). Database systems: a practical approach to design, implementation, and management. Pearson Education.

Shatsky, V. S., Malkovets, V. G., Belousova, E. A., ... & O’Reilly, S. Y. (2016). Tectonothermal evolution of the continental crust beneath the Yakutian diamondiferous province (Siberian craton): U–Pb and Hf isotopic evidence on zircons from crustal xenoliths of kimberlite pipes. Precambrian Research, 282, 1-20.

How to cite: Seliutina, N., Safonov, O., Yapaskurt, V., Varlamov, D., Sharygin, I., and Konstantinov, K.: P-T-fluid conditions of mineral equilibria in garnet-biotite crustal xenoliths from the Yubileinaya and Sytykanskaya kimberlite pipes, Yakutian kimberlite province., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-2468,, 2021.

Mohd Baqar Raza, Pritam Nasipuri, and Hifzurrahman

The Banded Iron Formation (BIF) in Bundelkhand craton (BuC) occurred as supracrustals associated with TTG’s, amphibolites, calcsilicate rocks, and quartzite within the east-west trending Bundelkhand tectonic zone (BTZ). The BIFs near Mauranipur do not show any prominent iron-rich and silica-rich layer band and are composed of garnet, amphibole, quartz, and magnetite. The volumetrically dominant monoclinic-amphiboles are grunerite in composition. XMg of grunerite varies between 0.39-0.37. The garnets are Mn-rich, the XSpss of garnet ranges from 0.26-0.20, XPyp and XGrs vary between 0.10-0.06 and 0.07-0.05, respectively. P-T pseudosection analysis indicates that by destabilizing iron-silicate hydroxide phases through a series of dehydration and decarbonation reactions, amphibole and garnet stabilized in BIF at temperature 400-450°C and pressure 0.1-0.2 GPa.

Massive type BIFs have monazite grains that vary from 10 to 50 µm in size, yield three distinct U-Th-Pbtotal age clusters. 10-20 µm sized monazite grains yield the oldest age, 3098±95 Ma. 2478±37 Ma average age is obtained from the second group, which is relatively larger and volumetrically predominant. The third age group of Monaiztes gives an age of 2088±110 Ma. ~3100 Ma monazite suggests the older supracrustal rocks of Bundelkhand craton, similar to those obtained from Singhbhum and the Dharwar craton. The 2478±37 Ma age is constrained as the timing of metamorphism and stabilization of BuC. The third age group, 2088±110 Ma probably associated with renewed hydrothermal activities, leading to rifting and emplacement of mafic dykes in BuC.

How to cite: Raza, M. B., Nasipuri, P., and Hifzurrahman, : Mineral chemistry, P-T pseudosection and in-situ U-Th-Pbtotal monazite geochronology of Banded Iron Formation from Bundelkhand craton North-Central India, and its geodynamic significance, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-9812,, 2021.

Life and atmosphere
Desiree Roerdink, Yuval Ronen, Harald Strauss, and Paul Mason

Reconstructing the emergence and weathering of continental crust in the Archean is crucial for our understanding of early ocean chemistry, biosphere evolution and the onset of plate tectonics. However, considerable disagreement exists between the various elemental and isotopic proxies that have been used to trace crustal input into marine sediments, and data are scarce prior to 3 billion years ago. Here we show that chemical weathering modified the Sr isotopic composition of Archean seawater as recorded in 3.52 to 3.20 Ga stratiform marine-hydrothermal barite deposits from three different cratons. We use a combination of barite crystal morphology, oxygen, multiple sulfur and strontium isotope data to select barite samples with the most seawater-like isotopic compositions, and subsequently use these in a hydrothermal mixing model to calculate a plausible seawater Sr isotope evolution trend from measured 87Sr/86Sr data. From modeled mixing ratios between seawater and hydrothermal fluids required for barite precipitation and comparison of 87Sr/86Sr in theoretical seawater-hydrothermal fluid mixtures with those recorded in the barite, we obtain a novel seawater Sr isotope evolution trend for Paleoarchean seawater that is much more radiogenic than the curve previously determined from carbonate rocks. Our findings require the presence and weathering of subaerial and evolved (high Rb/Sr) crust from 3.7 ± 0.1 Ga onwards, and demonstrate that crustal weathering affected the chemistry of the oceans 500 million years earlier than previously thought.

How to cite: Roerdink, D., Ronen, Y., Strauss, H., and Mason, P.: The emergence of subaerial crust and onset of weathering 3.7 billion years ago, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-4701,, 2021.

Yasuto Watanabe, Eiichi Tajika, Kazumi Ozaki, and Peng Hong

During the Archean (4.0–2.5 Ga), atmospheric oxygen levels would have been much lower than the present value (pO2 < ~10–5 PAL) [1], and the majority of the primary production would have been carried by anoxygenic photosynthetic bacteria. In a sufficiently reducing atmosphere (CH4/CO2 > ~0.2) [2], the layer of hydrocarbon haze could be formed in the upper atmosphere, possibly affecting the climate. Because haze particles significantly absorb the solar UV flux, the formation of hydrocarbon haze could affect the marine microbial ecosystem via the change in the production rate of electron donors (H2 and CO). However, how the formation of hydrocarbon haze affects the global activity of the marine microbial ecosystem remains unclear. Here, we employ a novel carbon cycle model in which a one-dimensional photochemical model “Atmos” [2], a marine microbial ecosystem model, and the carbonate-silicate geochemical cycle model are coupled. We assessed the effect of the formation of hydrocarbon haze on marine microbial ecosystems assuming completely anoxic conditions (pO2 < ~10–10 PAL) in the middle Archean and assuming mildly oxidized conditions (pO2 > 10–10 PAL) in the late Archean.

We found that, under the completely anoxic condition, haze formation works as a negative feedback for the oceanic biological activity. This is because the formation rate of electron donors (H2 and CO) in the atmosphere decreases with the progress of haze formation, so that the changes in the biogenic methane flux and the haze formation rate are suppressed. More specifically, the decrease in the formation rate of electron donors is caused by the decrease in the photo-dissociation rate of CO2 because of UV-shielding due to haze particles, and also by removal of C- and H-atom, which are supposed to be converted to CO and H2 if the haze is not formed, due to rainout of haze particles. 

We also found that, under the mildly oxidized condition, there are multiple equilibrium climate states that have a different haze thickness. The solution with thicker haze layer is similar to the completely anoxic condition, however, the other solution with the thinner haze layer is unique to the mildly oxidized condition. In this new equilibrium state, the formation rate of electron donors further decreases with the progress of haze formation because of the decrease in the photo-dissociation rate of formaldehyde. Thus, this mechanism works as a strong negative feedback for ocean biological activity and haze thickness, keeping the haze thickness thinner than the completely anoxic condition. We show that, as a result of this negative feedback, climate with the thinner haze could be stably achieved under the mildly oxidized condition. This result is consistent with a geological record which suggests possible transient formation of the haze in the Late Archean [3]. We suggest that haze formation is a vital process in understanding the biological activity and climate stability on terrestrial Earth-like planets.

[1] Lyons et al. (2014). Nature 506, 307-315. [2] Arney et al. (2016). Astrobiology 16(11), 873-899. [3] Izon et al. (2017). PNAS 114(13), E2571-E2579.

How to cite: Watanabe, Y., Tajika, E., Ozaki, K., and Hong, P.: Effect of Hydrocarbon Haze on Marine Primary Production in the Early Earth System, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14443,, 2021.

Mike Zawaski, Nigel Kelley, Phil (Omero) Orlandini, Claire Nichols, Abigail Allwood, and stephen Mojzsis

The biogenicity of proposed stromatolite structures from Eoarchean (ca. 3.71 Ga) rocks of the Isua Supracrustal Belt (ISB) in West Greenland is under debate. Our 2020 publication argues against biogenicity for the proposed stromatolites. The subsequent Comment to our work challenged some of our fundamental arguments for a tectonic origin to the structures. This Comment has been an opportunity for us to elaborate on these structures and further refine and solidify our initial conclusion that they represent the expected outcome of the tectonic deformation displayed in the ISB. This dialogue between groups is essential as the consequence of these structures being biogenic would move the date for complex microbial communities 200 million years closer to Earth's formation, to a time when Earth’s surface would have been even less habitable. Here we reexamine our four key observations that support our tectonic origin. First, we report detailed field characterization and structural analysis to show that the structures are linear inverted ridges aligned with azimuths of local and regional fold axes and parallel to linear structures; they were never primary linear, deformation-parallel stromatolites or deformed conical stromatolites. Second, our combined major element (e.g., Ca, Mg, Si) scanning μXRF maps fail to reveal internal laminations for the cores of these structures, but other authors argue layers are present. In the instance where layers appear to be preserved, we argue that an amorphous core is still present.  Also, layering on its own is inconclusive of a biogenic origin as relict internal laminations could be preserved. Third, the gross morphology of these structures being nearly identical in morphology and dimensions to clearly tectonic structures only tens of meters away is a more reliable indicator of a tectonic versus biogenic origin than internal laminations. Lastly, discontinuous field relationships and absence of primary sedimentary structures that could serve as way-up indicators preclude confident assignment of these outcrops as being structurally overturned, as originally argued. Collectively, our results reinforce that the Isua structures are the expected result of a tectonic fabric that preserves no fine-scale primary sedimentary structures and were probably never stromatolites.

How to cite: Zawaski, M., Kelley, N., Orlandini, P. (., Nichols, C., Allwood, A., and Mojzsis, S.: The Isua (Greenland) relict stromatolites cannot be confidently interpreted as original sedimentary structures, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13722,, 2021.