EGU24-7106, updated on 08 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Fresh water on Earth four billion years ago

Hamed Gamaleldien1, Li-Guang Wu2, Hugo K.H. Olierook3, Christopher L. Kirkland3, Uwe Kirsche4, Zheng-Xiang Li4, Tim Johnson4, Sean Makin4, Qiu-Li Li2, Qiang Jiang5, Simon A. Wilde4, and Xian-Hua Li2
Hamed Gamaleldien et al.
  • 1Khalifa University, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (
  • 2State Key Laboratory of Lithospheric Evolution, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, China
  • 3Timescales of Mineral Systems Group, School of Earth and Planetary Sciences & John de Laeter Centre, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia
  • 4Earth Dynamics Research Group, The Institute for Geoscience Research (TIGeR), School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth, WA 6845, Australia
  • 5State Key Laboratory of Petroleum Resources and Prospecting & College of Geosciences, China University of Petroleum, Beijing 102249, China

The operation of a hydrological cycle (i.e., exchange of water between the land, oceans, and atmosphere) has significant implications for the emergence of life. The oldest confirmed single-celled organisms at ~3.48 billion years ago (Ga) (Pilbara Craton, Western Australia) are thought to have formed in the presence of meteoric (fresh) water on emerged (subaerial) land in a hot spring environment. However, when widespread interaction between fresh water and emerged continental crust first began is poorly constrained. In this study, we use >1000 oxygen isotope analyses of Jack Hills detrital zircon to track fluid-rock interactions from the Hadean to the Paleoarchean (~4.4–3.1 Ga). We identify extreme isotopically light O (i.e., δ18O < 4.0 ‰) values older than 3.5 Ga. The data define two periods of magmatism with extreme isotopically-light O as low as 2.0 ‰ and –0.1 ‰ at around 4.0 and 3.4 Ga, respectively. Using Monte Carlo simulations, we demonstrate that such values can only be generated by the interaction of crustal magmatic systems with meteoric water. Our data constrains the earliest emergence of continental crust on Earth, the presence of fresh water, and the start of the hydrological cycle that likely provided the environmental niches required for a life less than 600 million years after Earth’s accretion.

How to cite: Gamaleldien, H., Wu, L.-G., Olierook, H. K. H., Kirkland, C. L., Kirsche, U., Li, Z.-X., Johnson, T., Makin, S., Li, Q.-L., Jiang, Q., Wilde, S. A., and Li, X.-H.: Fresh water on Earth four billion years ago, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-7106,, 2024.