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Title: Hadean  
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Subject: Precambrian, Archean, Geology of the North Sea, Nuvvuagittuq Greenstone Belt, Jack Hills
Collection: Geologic Time Scale, Geological Eons, Geological History of Earth, Hadean, Precambrian
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Hadean Eon
4600 - 4000 million years ago

The Hadean is the first geologic eon of Earth and lies before the Archean. It began with the formation of the Earth about 4.5 billion years ago and ended, as defined by the ICS, .[1] The name "Hadean" comes from Hades, the ancient Greek god of the underworld, in reference to the hellish conditions on Earth at the time: the planet had just formed and was still very hot due to high volcanism, a partially molten surface and frequent collisions with other Solar System bodies. The geologist Preston Cloud coined the term in 1972, originally to label the period before the earliest-known rocks on Earth. W. Brian Harland later coined an almost synonymous term: the "Priscoan period". Other, older texts simply refer to the eon as the Pre-Archean.


  • Etymology 1
  • Subdivisions 2
  • Hadean rocks 3
  • Atmosphere and oceans 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


The Hadean was a very violent period in the history of Earth. Hence, it receives its name from Hades, (; from Ancient Greek Ἅιδης/ᾍδης, Hāidēs; Doric Ἀΐδας Aidas) the ancient Greek god of the underworld.[2]


Since few geological traces of this eon remain on Earth, there is no official subdivision. However, the Lunar geologic timescale embraces several major divisions relating to the Hadean and so these are sometimes used in a somewhat informal sense to refer to the same periods of time on Earth.

The Lunar divisions are:

There is a recently proposed alternative scale that includes the addition of the Chaotian and Prenephelean Eons preceding the Hadean, and divides the Hadean into three eras with two periods each. The Paleohadean era consists of the Hephaestean () and the Jacobian periods (). The Mesohadean is divided into the Canadian () and the Procrustean periods (). The Neohadean is divided into the Acastan () and the Promethean periods ().[3]

Hadean rocks

In the last decades of the 20th century geologists identified a few Hadean rocks from Western Greenland, Northwestern Canada, and Western Australia.

The oldest dated zircon crystals date from about [4]—around 500 million years after the hypothesized time of the Earth's formation.

Atmosphere and oceans

The newly formed Hadean Earth experienced very high temperatures due to extreme volcanism and frequent collisions with other bodies, but eventually began to cool.

A sizeable quantity of water would have been in the material that formed the Earth.[5] Water molecules would have escaped Earth's gravity more easily when it was less massive during its formation. Hydrogen and helium are expected to continually escape (even to the present day) due to atmospheric escape.

Illustration of Earth and the Moon during a later period. Note increased proximity of the two, dark green ocean of water with large quantities of iron(II)oxide and clouds of carbon dioxide.

Part of the ancient planet is theorized to have been disrupted by the impact that created the Moon, which should have caused melting of one or two large areas. Present composition does not match complete melting and it is hard to completely melt and mix huge rock masses.[6] However, a fair fraction of material should have been vaporized by this impact, creating a rock vapor atmosphere around the young planet. The rock vapor would have condensed within two thousand years, leaving behind hot volatiles which probably resulted in a heavy CO
atmosphere with hydrogen and water vapor. Liquid water oceans existed despite the surface temperature of 230 °C (446 °F) because of the atmospheric pressure of the heavy CO
atmosphere. As cooling continued, subduction and dissolving in ocean water removed most CO
from the atmosphere but levels oscillated wildly as new surface and mantle cycles appeared.[7]

Study of zircons has found that liquid water must have existed as long ago as , very soon after the formation of the Earth.[8][9][10] This requires the presence of an atmosphere. The Cool Early Earth theory covers a range from about .

A September 2008 study of zircons found that Australian Hadean rock holds minerals that point to the existence of plate tectonics as early as .[11][12] If this is true, the time when Earth finished its transition from having a hot, molten surface and atmosphere full of carbon dioxide, to being very much like it is today, can be roughly dated to about 4.0 billion years ago. The action of plate tectonics and the oceans traps vast amounts of carbon dioxide, thereby eliminating the greenhouse effect and leading to a much cooler surface temperature and the formation of solid rock, and possibly even life.[11][12]

See also


  1. ^ "International Chronostratigraphic Chart 2012". ICS. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  2. ^ Terence McCarthy, Bruce Rubisge. "Story of Earth and Life". Ed. University of the Witwatersrand. School of Geosciences. ISBN 9781770071483. P. 70
  3. ^ "The Eons of Chaos and Hades". Solid Earth. January 26, 2010. 
  4. ^ Wilde et al. (2001).
  5. ^ Drake, Michael J. (2005), "Origin of water in the terrestrial planets", Meteoritics & Planetary Science 40 (4): 515–656,  .
  6. ^ Solar System Exploration: Science & Technology: Science Features: View Feature
  7. ^ Sleep, N. H.; Zahnle, K.; Neuhoff, P. S. (2001), "Initiation of clement surface conditions on the earliest Earth",  .
  8. ^ ANU - Research School of Earth Sciences - ANU College of Science - Harrison
  10. ^ A Cool Early Earth
  11. ^ a b Chang, Kenneth (December 2, 2008). "A New Picture of the Early Earth". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ a b Thermal State of the Lithosphere During Late Heavy Bombardment: Implications for Early Life, by Abramov, O. and Mojzsis, S. J.

Further reading

  • Hopkins, Michelle; Harrison, T. Mark; Manning, Craig E. (2008), "Low heat flow inferred from >4 Gyr zircons suggests Hadean plate boundary interactions",  .
  • Valley, John W.; Peck, William H.; King, Elizabeth M. (1999), "Zircons Are Forever", The Outcrop for 1999, University of Wisconsin-Madison, retrieved January 10, 2006 Evidence from detrital zircons for the existence of continental crust and oceans on the Earth 4.4 Gyr ago.
  • Wilde, S. A.; Valley, J. W.; Peck, W. H. & Graham, C. M. (2001), "Evidence from detrital zircons for the existence of continental crust and oceans on the Earth 4.4 Gyr ago", Nature 409 (6817): 175–178,  .
  • Wyche, S.; Nelson, D. R. & Riganti, A. (2004), "4350–3130 Ma detrital zircons in the Southern Cross Granite–Greenstone Terrane, Western Australia: implications for the early evolution of the Yilgarn Craton", Australian Journal of Earth Sciences 51 (1): 31–45,  .

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • Description of the Hadean Era
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