Venus may have been habitable until 700 million years ago

Written by Faisal Khan

Artist’s representation of how Venus may have appeared with water — NASA

Despite Mercury being the closest to the Sun, Venus is the hottest planet in our Solar System due to the transformation that changed its atmosphere radically somewhere in the past. The average surface temperature of 462° C (864° F) of Venus can melt Lead.

Add to this a dense atmosphere containing 96.5% carbon dioxide with sulphuric acid downpours, the hell exists literally next door in astronomical terms.

A recent study by the researchers, Michael Way and Anthony Del Genio of the Goddard Institute for Space Science (GISS) has concluded that things were not always as bad as they look today. On the contrary, Venus might have sustained liquid water for two or three billion years before runaway greenhouse effect changed things dramatically.

The team of two ran five different simulations based on different levels of water coverage on the surface of the planet. These included:

  • An ocean with 310 m (1,000 ft) deep
  • Another shallow one measuring 10 m (33 ft)
  • One where the water was trapped within the soil like Earth
  • And the last one where Venus was entirely underwater (158m or 580 ft)

The simulations were run through a 3D general circulation model, varying atmospheric conditions & the increases in solar radiation to depict the actual changes over time. The time period in consideration was 715 million years ago, 4.2 billion years ago and today.

Each simulation resulted in the planet remaining between a habitable range of temperatures [20° C (68 F) to 50° C (122° F)], where water can exist in liquid form. More encouraging was the fact that simulation showed that Venus could have sustained these temperatures for three billion years. Quite possible considering Venus falls in the habitable ‘Goldilocks zone’ of our solar system.

Venus had a pretty similar formation process as Earth — when it came into being 4.2 billion years ago, the planet cooled rapidly trapping most of the carbon dioxide in the crust with a nitrogen-rich atmosphere and small amounts of carbon dioxide & methane left in the atmosphere, similar to our own planet.

The team suggests that about 700–750 million years ago, an ‘outgassing’ of carbon dioxide due to massive volcanic activity spewed out molten magma before cooling off to form a thick protective coating, preventing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to be reabsorbed triggering a runaway greenhouse effect, which trapped all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere making it thicker & hotter till it reached the present-day levels.

The team is still looking for conclusive evidence on whether water condensation took place on the planet in the distant past & whether the outgassing was a one-off event or the planet heating was a result of multiple events like this.

The findings of the research were presented at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019.

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Comments (17)

  • Avatar

    JDHuffman

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    Pure nonsense. It’s all science-fiction and atrocious pseudoscience.

    Computer models usually give the results they are programmed to give. It’s amazing that our tax dollars continue to wasted when there is so much constructive work that could be done.

    • Avatar

      Tom O

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      Can’t agree with you more. Without a single bit of “hands on knowledge,” not a rock core, or anything else but imagination, they create a simulation that supports their pet BS about CO2 and what is going to happen here.

      If I had the authority to do so, people that come up with BS studies as this, probably on federal grants, would never be allowed to apply for or work on another project funded by federal grants. If the “grant money” was properly managed, we might find ourselves walking back towards legitimate scientific studies and a better understanding of our world, solar system and universe..

      • Avatar

        jerry krause

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        Hi JD and Tom O,

        I totally agree but geologists and other scientists that if your science is about what has occurred billions of years ago, even a million or two ago, who can disagree with one?

        It’s only when we begin to refer to thousands of years ago do we have the physical evidence which support more recent ideas about the earth’s history.

        Although, I even question Maurice Lavigne’s comment (https://principia-scientific.org/how-prehistoric-glaciers-could-have-been-formed-part-4/).

        Maybe I am doing the same thing that these scientists have done, but please not the word I try to use often: ‘could’. For I have observed the physical evidence for prehistoric glaciers in eastern South Dakota and Minnesota at lower latitudes than 45N.

        And I do not deny there is also evidence of glaciers where Maurice indicated.

        Have a good day, Jerry

    • Avatar

      JaKo

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      One little factoid was, perhaps intentionally, left out:
      Huge volcanic activity caused out-gassing of the Evil GreenHouse Gas (EGHG=CO2), yet did nothing of the sort as warming the Venus’ atmosphere, let alone its surface.
      I think Zoe won’t mind — here is a proof that ‘seemingly minuscule heat flow through the crust would cause the whole 33K difference (in case of Earth) and there is a textbook example of why…

      • Avatar

        Zoe Phin

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        👍😘

  • Avatar

    Andy Rowlands

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    This was a good article right up to the point where the author blames CO2 for trapping heat to cause a runaway greenhouse effect.

  • Avatar

    Vance Lunn

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    Sigh…..If the Venusians had only adopted socialism by 700 Million BC, they could have saved the planet.

    • Avatar

      Andy Rowlands

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      Haha good one Vance 🙂

  • Avatar

    Charles Higley

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    The 96.5% CO2 of Venus did not and does not create a greenhouse effect.

    In every way it is not a greenhouse as insolation does not reach the surface, which is a requirement of the greenhouse effect by a gas. In fact, Venus has a permanent cloud deck which prevents insolation to the surface and any heating occurs at the top of the atmosphere. It is gravitational compression that causes Venus’s hot climate, Just as Earth’s thin atmosphere creates a 15ºC base climate due to its gravitational compression.

    • Avatar

      Zoe Phin

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      Causality is the other way around.
      High temperature -> High atmospheric pressure

      • Avatar

        J Cuttance

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        You seem to be suggesting that temperature creates pressure, and the mass of the atmosphere doesn’t.

        • Avatar

          Zoe Phin

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          Turn the temperature off. All gases become solids, and drop to the surface. Pressure is still there, but no atmosphere.

          Gravitational Pressure and Atmospheric Pressure are directed in opposite directions.

          Gravity is an inward directed force. Temperature is the average translational kinetic energy of randomly moving particles. Directed forces don’t add to randomness – quite the opposite.

          • Avatar

            Peter

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            Interesting answer.

            If you perform work on a gas, its temperature and pressure will increase, if the gas does work on its surroundings, its temperature and pressure decrease. If work is done under adiabatic conditions then entropy is constant.

            In nature, substances only approach absolute zero, and usually in a vacuum. The coldest place recorded in space at 1 degree Kelvin is the Boomerang Nebula.

            Also if work is performed on a gas under constant temperature (Isentropic), it will increase in pressure until it condenses into liquid.

            Take the much maligned, unloved, unappreciated and depleted life giving Carbon Dioxide for instance, it doesn’t form a liquid at atmospheric pressure, only as solid or gas, however under higher pressures it exists in liquid form within a certain temperature range.

            So we’re really talking about changes in internal energy, increasing either pressure (work) or temperature will increase internal energy. To achieve absolute zero internal energy must be very low.

            The lowest recorded temperature on Earth of 184 Kelvin, at the Antarctic Vostok Station, was recorded on July 21 in 1983.
            If the Earths temperature was reduced to 194 degrees Kelvin, (Wandering Earth Perhaps? ) Carbon Dioxide would solidify, terrestrial life would cease to exist, at 77 degrees Kelvin, Nitrogen will condense into liquid, at 54 degrees Kelvin, the Oxygen would condense. Hydrogen would become a vapour at 33 K, and completely liquefy at 20 K. At 20K, there is no atmosphere. However this is pressure dependent, at low pressures (depends on gas mass and gravity), gasses don’t liquefy, they freeze and become solid.

            Pluto’s surface temperatures range between 33K to 55K and it has a thin atmosphere of 1Pa pressure, but there is evidence of liquid nitrogen on the surface, even Pluto’s atmospheric pressure can increase significantly with enough gas sublimation.

            https://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/plutos-atmosphere-confounds-researchers-032520166/

            If the mass of Earth’s atmosphere was reduced, so would its temperature and pressure. If the mass of the atmosphere increased, again so would its temperature and pressure. Gigantic insects existed in the higher atmospheric pressure and temperatures of the Carboniferous period.

            Take a star, even for the lightest gas, Hydrogen, with sufficient gravity, pressure and temperature increases sufficiently enough for nuclear fusion to occur.

            The oxygen in our atmosphere today was put there by life, Carbon Dioxide has been sequestered into the ground as fossil fuel and carbonaceous rocks. Clearly when there was no Oxygen in Earths atmosphere, before life, there was an abundance of Carbon Dioxide, no fossil fuels and no carbonaceous rocks.

            One day without human intervention, marine creatures will continue to sequester Carbon Dioxide until plants can no longer survive, this will be a mass extinction event, eventually the marine creatures themselves will also cease to exist, perhaps some creature will evolve to utilise carbonate rocks.

            Clearly the answer to “Why am I here?”, must be to ensure life prevails. Replenish CO2, prevent asteroid / comet strikes, manage the planets resources, in a sort of chaotic way, as life and nature tends to do. Or is it simply 42?

            Cheers,

            Peter.

  • Avatar

    julian

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    This whole thesis depends on a huge out gassing of CO2 700 million years ago. Totally made up scenario and entirely unlikely. More likely CO2 was continuously produced over billions of years and Venus lacked the mechanism to lock it up in limestone as Earth did. There is no runaway temperature on Venus, it is entirely the product of adiabatic compression. At around 51 Km altitude the pressure in the Venusian atmosphere is 1 Bar, -same as Earth at sea level. At this elevation the temperature is 65C, 50 C warmer than Earth. Given that Venus received twice the radiation energy that Earth does (inverse square) and given that Stefan-Boltzmann predicts that sustainable temperatures are proportional to the 4th root of radiation input this temperature difference between Earth and Venus can be accounted for entirely by the stefan-boltzmann effect. In other words there is no greenhouse effect required nor detectable on Venus. This is significant when one notes that Venus is 9700 parts in 10,000 CO2 and Earth is 4 parts in 10,000 CO2. If one similarly increases the Earth atmospheric to match Venus (increase by 95x) the resultant temperature on Earth becomes around 410 C. This is high school math (PV/T=k). High school math is what silly Greta lacks. Maybe these modellers lack something in this area also.

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    Squidly

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    Hahaha .. this is just comical .. don’t tell me this was a serious paper. Talk about a waste of taxpayer dollars. These asshats actually got paid for this? .. man, I’m in the wrong business.

  • Avatar

    tom0mason

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    It just shows how screwed-up GISS computer models are.

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    Geraint Hughes

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    When you understand that in our solar system the smaller rocky planets, were ejected from the large planets, Jupiter & Saturn, (which is why they have so many moons.) and this happens quite regularly, every 10 thousand to 100,000 years or so, you understand that it is far more likely that Venus isnt very old and it far more likely that it is a relatively new planet, which explains why its crust & why it is so volcanically active as to have tens of thousands of pancake volcanoes on its surface.

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