Atmospheric Gases

29 Oct 2014

At http://phys.org/print333613144.html ... a paper in Nature Geoscience (Oct 2014) has suggested the origin of Earth's nitrogen rich atmosphere is due to the tectonic forces that drive mountain building, subduction, and Plate Tectonics. It also adds, presumably quoting a consensus source, the chemistry of the air we breathe has been affected by millions and millions of years of photosynthesis. The oxygen upstairs, it is thought, can be mostly explained away as due to plants and trees growing on the surface of the Earth. This sounds a bit like a chicken and egg situation.

The author of the paper has a theory that active volcanoes at plate boundaries are the origin of a great deal of the nitrogen in the atmosphere. This process of course takes place over billions of years - which is good uniformitarian style logic and implies, they say, that Plate Tectonics is actually a very old process, going back to the same billions of years marker. One then becomes a little suspicious. Is the paper about nitrogen or about uniformitarian Plate Tectonics - what is the horse and what is the cart?

Of course, one could apply the same argument to the expanding earth model - volcanism was responsible for nitrogen in the atmosphere. However, expanding earth is without the subduction and therefore the mountain building has a question mark too, leaving only the volcanoes. What expanding earth might have is big catastrophes that opened up the oceans.

The paper goes on to say nitrogen from deep inside the Earth can form ammonium ions which tend to become incorporated into silicate minerals, and as solids (rock). These are among the most abundant minerals that occur near the surface. Silicate minerals, however, react in different ways to local conditions and chemistry. The presence of oxygen containing compounds is one example. Here, the ammonium ions break down to a mixture of water (hydrogen and oxygen) and nitrogen. They then say the nitrogen finds its way into the atmosphere throug volcanic vents - spewing large amounts of gases into the atmosphere.

The authors say that Mars and Venus donot have Plate Tectonics and this is why there is little nitrogen in their atmospheres. Hence, we are led to believe the Earth is somehow unique in having Plate Tectonics and it was this pristine geological process that enabled life to form here and not on the other planets in the solar system. I can't fathom why so many pristine science theories litter secular science - but there it is.

However, the Damscene moment of the authors might be a little more complicated than they allow. At http://malagabay.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/terrestrial-degassing-of-hydro... ... we have Tim Cullen in fine mettle. He begins by telling us Earth's lower atmosphere is dominated by nitrogen and oxygen. In the upper atmosphere the most common gases are hydrogen and helium. He then goes on to look at various articles on outgassing events as a result of tectonic activity in the past. Hence, the Nature article is not telling us anything radically new. It is promoting Plate Tectonics theory and saying that if the atmosphere had nitrogen from an early point and then the Plate Tectonics geology was also as old and wrinkly and cannot be criticised for shifting blocks of continent around on their computer screen, as takes their fancy. Seems like some people are not quite onboard the Plate Tectonics wagon and they are trying to justify it and deflect criticism. Plate Tectonics is currently a Holy Grail of gradualism so what form that scepticism might take is unclear.

On page 3 of Tim Cullen's piece he refers to what he calls an amazing paper by Arie Gilat and Alexander Vol which is essentially an update on the work of Vladimir Larin, 'Hydrade Earth: The New Geology of Our Primordially Hydrogen Rich Planet' (1993). Gilat and Vol were published in the Journal of Science and Engineering in 2005 which would suggest it was turned down in more mainstream channels - but that is probably because it didn't kow tow to the consensus. In this they say earthquakes and volcanoes provide high velocities of energy release that are constantly released in many such events. The released energy is accompanied by hydrogen.

So much for hydrogen in the atmosphere. At http://malagabay.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/elementary-my-dear-watson-1-th... ... Tim Cullen looks at the origin of nitrogen in the atmosphere and oceans. He says, fundamentally the estimated 25 parts per million (by mass) of nitrogen in the Earth's bulk provides an unconvincing source for the 753,000 parts per million (by mass) of nitrogen in the Earth's atmosphere. In addition, nitrogen is present if all organisms, dead or alive, in organic waste and in mineral deposits such as coal, lignite, peat, and potassium nitrates, saltpetre, and so on. He goes on to debunk the consensus view of the nitrogen cycle. In mainstream theory nitrogen accumulated during the accretion event was released early on as a result of solar evaporation. Yet, nitrogen is supposed to have outgassed in order to produce the lower atmosphere. Cullen therefore confirms nitrogen outgassing is a hoary theory and nothing new. Why have they felt it necessary to come out in support of Plate Tectonics, a theory that appears to be well established and at the top of the heap?