In addition, powerful currents would have wrapped around the equator, and strong upwelling would have existed along the coasts. Unstable flows at the equator would have caused eddies that in turn would have generated jet streams reminiscent of those seen in the atmosphere of Jupiter, the researchers added. This circulation, including that of warm water, suggests melting rates near continents may have been as much as 10 times larger than previously estimated.
"You really have to think about Snowball Earth as being like a different planet," Schrag told OurAmazingPlanet. "Some criticisms people have made about the Snowball Earth hypothesis are based on assumptions of how the Earth worked that depend on how Earth works today. I think these findings are another nice example of how Snowball Earth was a very different planet, even though it's this planet. When you cover Earth with ice for so long, it changes many things you think are fundamental, including ocean circulation."
And all this churning might have helped provide life under the ice with a regular flow of nutrients.
"The ice-covered ocean was a pretty hard place to live — it's not a booming ecosystem," Schrag said. "This model makes us think harder about how nutrients would have mixed in the snowball, how oxygen and carbon might mix. It suggests there was really quite vigorous ocean-mixing."
Future research should investigate ancient rocks to look for evidence to test their model, Schrag added.
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