The Nebula Winter: The united view of the snowball Earth, mass extinctions, and explosive evolution in the late Neoproterozoic and Cambrian periods

Ryuho Kataoka, Toshikazu Ebisuzaki, Hiroko Miyahara, Tokuhiro Nimura, Takayuki Tomida, Tatsuhiko Sato, Shigenori Maruyama

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    Encounters with nebulae, such as supernova remnants and dark clouds in the galaxy, can lead to an environmental catastrophe on the Earth through the negative climate forcings and destruction of the ozone layer by enhanced fluxes of cosmic rays and cosmic dust particles. A resultant reduction in primary productivity leads to mass extinctions through depletion of oxygen and food starvations as well as anoxia in the ocean. The model shows three levels of hierarchical time variations caused by supernova encounters (1-10kyrs), dark cloud encounters (0.1-10Myrs), and starbursts (~100Myrs), respectively. This "Nebula Winter" model can explain the catastrophic phenomena such as snowball Earth events, repeated mass extinctions, and Cambrian explosion of biodiversities which took place in the late Proterozoic era through the Cambrian period. The Late Neoproterozoic snowball Earth event covers a time range of ca. 200Myrs long spanning from 770Ma to the end of Cambrian period (488Ma) with two snowball states called Sturtian and Marinoan events. Mass extinctions occurred at least eight times in this period, synchronized with large fluctuations in δ13C of carbonates in the sediment. Each event is likely to correspond to each nebula encounter. In other words, the late Neoproterozoic snowball Earth and Cambrian explosion are possibly driven by a starburst, which took place around 0.6Ga in the Milky Way Galaxy. The evidences for a Nebula Winter can be obtained from geological records in sediment in the deep oceans at those times.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1153-1163
    Number of pages11
    JournalGondwana Research
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2014



    • Cambrian explosion
    • Mass extinctions
    • Molecular cloud
    • Snowball Earth
    • Supernova

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geology

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