Dr. Nathan Miller, a research scientist in the Department of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), will present findings of a three-year field study at the first International Snowball Earth Conference, to be conducted in Ticino, Switzerland, July 16-21.
A subject of much interest and debate among geoscientists worldwide, the Snowball Earth hypothesis suggests that the Earth underwent profoundly cold periods from 750 million to 600 million years ago – so cold that all or most ocean surfaces may have frozen solid. The entire planet, according to the theory, was a literal snowball. Earth recovered from at least two of these glacial intervals by intense global warming, apparently due to extreme buildup of greenhouse gases from volcanoes.
Beginning in July, 2003, scientists from UTD, including Miller, and Hebrew University of Jerusalem began a field examination of rocks from the Neoproterozoic era (900-544 million years ago) in northern Ethiopia. The goal of the project, sponsored by the Binational Science Foundation, was to establish the sequence of events recorded in the rocks in order to better understand how and why Earth’s climate fluctuated dramatically at that time.
Attendance at the upcoming conference is by invitation only and will include an international mix of senior and junior scientists. Miller has also created a Snowball Earth display, which includes rock samples collected in Ethiopia and other locations, in the central hallway of the Founders Building on campus.