Snowball Earth covers the controversial theory that for millions of years the Earth was entirely smothered in ice, up to one kilometre thick. The temperature hovers around -40ºC everywhere, even in the tropics and the equator.
If it did, then virtually nothing could survive this ferocious climate. There are some tantalising geological clues that show this theory may be true but the problem is, the clues and the Snowball Earth theory defy the laws of nature.
For over fifty years a group of scientists has been trying to prove this incredible period of Earth history. Struggling against scepticism and disbelief, now finally the many mysteries have been solved and the scientific community is slowly coming around to the extraordinary idea not just of the dramatic freeze, but of an equally dramatic thaw.
Scientists across the world are starting to believe that in the past the Earth froze over completely for ten million years… then warmed up rapidly about 600 million years ago. Almost all life was wiped out. But out of the freeze emerged the first complex creatures on Earth. Scientists now believe that the so-called Snowball Earth theory could hold the key to the evolution of complex life on this planet.
The discovery of this theory is a classic scientific detective story. For decades there had been a growing ‘X-File’ of geological anomalies haunting the scientific community. Telltale signs of past glaciation have been found in places that should have been much too hot – very near the equator. Even during the most severe ice age, scientists believed that the ice only reached as far down as Northern Europe and the middle of the USA.
So what could these tropical deposits mean?