Robust elements of Snowball Earth atmospheric circulation and oases for life


Corresponding author: D. S. Abbot, Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA. (


[1] Atmospheric circulation in a Snowball Earth is critical for determining cloud behavior, heat export from the tropics, regions of bare ice, and sea glacier flow. These processes strongly affect Snowball Earth deglaciation and the ability of oases to support photosynthetic marine life throughout a Snowball Earth. Here we establish robust aspects of the Snowball Earth atmospheric circulation by running six general circulation models with consistent Snowball Earth boundary conditions. The models produce qualitatively similar patterns of atmospheric circulation and precipitation minus evaporation. The strength of the Snowball Hadley circulation is roughly double modern at low CO2 and greatly increases as CO2 is increased. We force a 1‒D axisymmetric sea glacier model with general circulation model (GCM) output and show that, neglecting zonal asymmetry, sea glaciers would limit ice thickness variations to math formula(10%). Global mean ice thickness in the 1‒D sea glacier model is well‒approximated by a 0‒D ice thickness model with global mean surface temperature as the upper boundary condition. We then show that a thin‒ice Snowball solution is possible in the axysymmetric sea glacier model when forced by output from all the GCMs if we use ice optical properties that favor the thin‒ice solution. Finally, we examine Snowball oases for life using analytical models forced by the GCM output and find that conditions become more favorable for oases as the Snowball warms, so that the most critical time for the survival of life would be near the beginning of a Snowball Earth episode.