September 22, 2019

I BLAME VENUSIAN SUV DRIVERS: “Venus may have been a temperate planet hosting liquid water for 2-3 billion years, until a dramatic transformation starting over 700 million years ago resurfaced around 80% of the planet.”

Forty years ago, NASA’s Pioneer Venus mission found tantalising hints that Earth’s ‘twisted sister’ planet may once have had a shallow ocean’s worth of water. To see if Venus might ever have had a stable climate capable of supporting liquid water, Dr. Way and his colleague, Anthony Del Genio, have created a series of five simulations assuming different levels of water coverage.

In all five scenarios, they found that Venus was able to maintain stable temperatures between a maximum of about 50 degrees Celsius and a minimum of about 20 degrees Celsius for around three billion years. A temperate climate might even have been maintained on Venus today had there not been a series of events that caused a release, or ‘outgassing’, of carbon dioxide stored in the rocks of the planet approximately 700-750 million years ago.

“Our hypothesis is that Venus may have had a stable climate for billions of years. It is possible that the near-global resurfacing event is responsible for its transformation from an Earth-like climate to the hellish hot-house we see today,” said Way.

So the watery, tropical Venus of 1950s SF wasn’t wrong, just . . . out of date.

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