Icebox or hothouse? main content.

Icebox or hothouse?

Part of Hall of Planet Earth.

Icebox or Hothouse? AMNH/R.Mickens

Exhibition Text

By observing other stars, we think that the Sun’s luminosity has increased by 25 percent since its formation. Thus, the early Earth must have received less sunlight, and should have been covered with ice. While there is evidence of periodic Ice Ages early in the Precambrian, they were not lengthy. One possible reason why the Earth did not become an icebox is that the early atmosphere had a high concentration of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide. These served as an insulating blanket, keeping the surface warm.

For Educators

Topic: Earth Science

Subtopic: Atmosphere

Keywords: Solar radiation, Greenhouse gases, Greenhouse effect, Atmospheric, Glacial epoch, Paleoclimatology

Audience: General