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Sioux Falls Scientists endorse How the Earth Was Made as it covers
the history of the planet Earth from its formation from dust
and molten rock to flourishing with human life.

How the Earth Was Made

How the Earth Was Made (2008) - 94 minutes
How the Earth Was Made at Amazon.com

From assailing meteorites to the beginning of life on Earth, travel through the tumultuous 4.5 billion year history of our planet.

From a seething ocean of radioactive, molten rock to a refuge for life as we know it, Earth has undergone a staggering series of cataclysmic transformations in its long and epic history. Assailed relentlessly for millions of years by meteorites, our once toxic and hostile planet has been covered in water and in ice, and seen the rise and sundering of continents, the creation of an atmosphere, and, ultimately, the beginning of life.

How the Earth Was Made plots the twisting course of Earth's amazing journey. Using groundbreaking special effects and traveling to remote locations where our planet still bears the scars of it's violent history, this compelling documentary tells a story of unimaginable timescales, world-shattering forces, radical climates, and mass extinctions.

The History Channel® journeys back in time to show the creation of Earth's land masses, the birth of the first complex creatures, and devastating extinctions - before speculating on the future when all life becomes extinct.

A Timeline of the Earth's History

  • 4.5 Billion Years Ago
    The earth is formed from the collision of countless meteors in the young solar system. The planet's surface is an ocean of molten rock.
  • 4.4 Billion Years Ago
    Due to gradual cooling, the surface of the Earth solidifies. Water begins to form on the surface.
  • 4 Billion Years Ago
    After millions of years of relentless rain, 90% of the Earth is covered by water.
  • 3.5 Billion Years Ago
    Granite is first formed. The continents begin to take shape.
  • 2.5 Billion Years Ago
    Stromatolites begin filling the atmosphere with oxygen. A quarter of the planet's surface is covered by land.
  • 1.5 Billion Years Ago
    Increased levels of oxygen make the seas and sky look blue.
  • 1 Billion Years Ago
    Rodinia, the first supercontinent, is formed by the collision of all the Earth's continents.
  • 700 Million Years Ago
    Ice covers the entire Earth, killing almost all life.
  • 650 Million Years Ago
    Volcanic eruptions begin to tear Rodinia apart. Ice begins to retreat towards the poles.
  • 500 Million Years Ago
    There is a dramatic increase in the number and complexity of life forms, known as the ambrian explosion.
  • 400 Million Years Ago
    The development of the ozone layer frees life to leave the oceans.
  • 300 Million Years Ago
    The continents converge again to form the supercontinent Pangaea. Huge insects, amphibians, and early reptilians begin to live on land.
  • 250 Million Years Ago
    Huge volcanic eruptions cause the extinction of 95% of living species.
  • 230 Million Years Ago
    The first dinosaurs evolve.
  • 180 Million Years Ago
    Pangaea begins to break apart.
  • 100 Million Years Ago
    Dinosaurs dominate a world largely covered by lush, tropical landscapes.
  • 65 Million Years Ago
    An enormous meteor lands in Mexico. In combination with large-scale volcanic eruptions, this event creates a huge dust cloud that causes the dinosaurs and 70% of all species on Earth to become extinct.
  • 55 Million Years Ago
    "The Age of Mammals". The Earth's landscapes begin to take their current forms.
  • 6 Million Years Ago
    The Grand Canyon begins to be formed.
  • 2 Million Years Ago
    Ancestors of modern humans are first seen. The ice ages arrive.
  • 10,000 Years Ago
    The last ice sheets retreat to the poles. Human life flourishes.
  • Billions of Years in the Future
    When Earth's core finally cools, will all life on the planet end?

1-29-18 Wave of massive volcanoes created Earth’s first supercontinent
2.2 billion years ago, a huge build-up of pressure inside the Earth triggered vast volcanic eruptions, which formed the first ever supercontinent. The world’s continents arrived in a blaze of fury. A pressure blow-out seems to have caused vast amounts of molten rock to spew out of the Earth and harden into solid land. Until about 2.2 billion years ago, Earth was mostly underwater. A few small landmasses existed, but nothing like the vast continents we have today. To understand how the continents formed, Christopher Spencer at Curtin University in Australia and his colleagues did the most comprehensive audit yet of the global geological record. They found something strange: almost no volcanic rocks formed between 2.3 and 2.2 billion years ago. “Plenty formed before and after, but hardly any formed during this time,” says Spencer. “It was like there was this dramatic shutdown.” At 2.2 billion years ago, the researchers found a sudden surge in the amount of land produced. They could tell because, when magma wells up from underground and crystallises, the resulting rock has giveaway chemical properties. The researchers believe powerful whirlpool currents in the mantle, deep inside the Earth, may have been responsible for the lull and flare-up in geological activity. Between 2.3 and 2.2 billion years ago, they think these currents pulled together any small chunks of land that existed. “Once they became stuck in the middle, all volcanic activity on these land fragments pretty much stopped,” says Spencer. Over time, heat built up under these static landmasses. Eventually, the enormous pressure sparked intense volcanic activity that spewed magma in all directions for millions of years.

10-27-17 A deadly 2014 landslide’s power came from soils weakened by past slides
A deadly 2014 landslide’s power came from soils weakened by past slides
The Washington mudflow moved almost like an earthworm, extending and contracting. Earth weakened by previous landslides and soils behaving like water were responsible for the unusual size of a deadly 2014 landslide, two scientists reported October 24 at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting. Understanding why this landslide was so mobile could help geologists better map the hazards that could lead to others like it and prevent future loss of life. In March 2014, following more than a month of heavy rainfall, a wall of mud suddenly rushed down a hillside near Oso, Wash., engulfing houses and trees before spilling into the Stillaguamish River valley (SN: 4/19/14, p. 32). The debris flow killed 43 people and destroyed dozens of homes. The valley had seen landslides before, most recently in 2006. But the “run-out” — the size of the debris flow — of the Oso landslide was uncommonly large, spreading a fan of mud and debris across 1.4 kilometers. To unravel the sequence of events leading to the landslide, Brian Collins and Mark Reid, both with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., first mapped the debris that made up the landslide, including large still-intact blocks of hillside called hummocks, glacial sediments and fallen trees. The researchers then used those maps to track where the different parts of the debris had originated and where they ended up. From that, the duo determined that sediments weakened and previously mobilized by the 2006 landslide failed first, followed by sediments that had failed in a prehistoric landslide and finally by intact sediments.

8-15-17 Seismologists get to the bottom of how deep Earth’s continents go
Seismologists get to the bottom of how deep Earth’s continents go
Analysis of seismic waves finds runny rock layer where landmass ends. Earthquake vibrations are revealing just how deep the continents beneath our feet go. Researchers analyzed seismic waves from earthquakes that have rocked various regions throughout the world, including the Americas, Antarctica and Africa. In almost every place, patterns in these waves indicated a layer of partially melted material between 130 and 190 kilometers underground. That boundary marks the bottom of continental plates, argue Saikiran Tharimena, a seismologist at the University of Southampton in England, and colleagues. Their finding, reported in the Aug. 11 Science, may help resolve a longtime debate over the thickness of Earth’s landmasses. Estimating continental depth “has been an issue that’s plagued scientists for quite a while,” says Tim Stern, a geophysicist at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, who wasn’t involved in the work. Rock fragments belched up by volcanic eruptions suggest that the rigid rock of the continents extends about 175 kilometers underground, where it sits atop slightly runnier material in Earth’s mantle. But analyses of earthquake vibrations along Earth’s surface have suggested that continents could run 200 or 300 kilometers deep, very gradually transitioning from cold, hard rock to hotter, gooier material.

6-7-17 There’s as much water in Earth’s mantle as in all the oceans
There’s as much water in Earth’s mantle as in all the oceans
The zone of mantle rock that sits 400 to 600 kilometres below our feet seems to be saturated with water. The deep Earth holds about the same amount of water as our oceans. That’s the conclusion from experiments on rocks typical of those in the mantle transition zone, a global buffer layer 410 to 660 kilometres beneath us that separates the upper from the lower mantle. “If our estimation is correct, it means there’s a large amount of water in the deep Earth,” says Fei Hongzhan at the University of Bayreuth in Germany. “The total amount of water in the deep Earth is nearly the same as the mass of all the world’s ocean water.” The results add to mounting evidence that there is much more water than expected beneath us, mostly locked up within the crystals of minerals as ions rather than liquid water. At least one team has previously discovered water-rich rock fragments in volcanic debris originating from the mantle. Another group has conducted experiments suggesting that the water at these depths was formed here on Earth rather than being delivered to the primordial planet by comets and asteroids. “The vast amount of water locked inside rocks of this deep region of the mantle will certainly force us to think harder about how it ever got there, or perhaps how it could have always been there since solidification of the mantle,” says Steven Jacobsen of Northwestern University in Illinois, who wasn’t connected with the new research. “It’s a key question about the evolution of the Earth, which extends to extrasolar planets as well.”

12-20-16 ‘Waterworld’ Earth preceded late rise of continents, scientist proposes
‘Waterworld’ Earth preceded late rise of continents, scientist proposes
Expansion of dry land may have enabled Cambrian explosion. The continents rose above sea level only a few hundred million years ago, a new proposal states. Before that time, Earth’s surface was mostly covered by water. Earth may have been a water world for much of its history, a new proposal contends. Just like in the Kevin Costner movie, the continents would have been mostly submerged below sea level. Previous proposals have suggested that Earth’s land area has remained comparatively unchanged throughout much of geologic time. But geoscientist Cin-Ty Lee of Rice University in Houston proposes that Earth’s continents didn’t rise above the waves until around 700 million years ago, when the underlying mantle sufficiently cooled. Though many scientists are unconvinced, that continental rise may have contributed to the rapid diversification of life known as the Cambrian explosion. “The Earth is cooling and that actually has manifestations that dictate how life goes,” Lee said December 15 at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting.

12-19-16 Molten iron river discovered speeding beneath Russia and Canada
Molten iron river discovered speeding beneath Russia and Canada
A hot stream of molten iron that is 420 kilometres wide is moving westwards under North America and Siberia and has inexplicably tripled its speed over the past 15 years. Deep below our planet’s surface a molten jet of iron nearly as hot as the surface of the sun is picking up speed. This stream of liquid has been discovered for the first time by telltale magnetic field readings 3000 kilometres below North America and Russia taken from space. The vast jet stream some 420 kilometres wide has trebled in speed since 2000, and is now circulating westwards at between 40 and 45 kilometres per year deep under Siberia and heading towards beneath Europe. That is three times faster than typical speeds of liquid in the outer core. No one knows yet why the jet has got faster, but the team that discovered the accelerating jet thinks it is a natural phenomenon that dates back as much as a billion years, and can help us understand the formation of Earth’s magnetic fields that keeps us safe from solar winds.

12-19-16 Iron 'jet stream' detected in Earth's outer core
Iron 'jet stream' detected in Earth's outer core
Scientists say they have identified a remarkable new feature in Earth’s molten outer core. They describe it as a kind of "jet stream" - a fast-flowing river of liquid iron that is surging westwards under Alaska and Siberia. The moving mass of metal has been inferred from measurements made by Europe’s Swarm satellites. This trio of spacecraft are currently mapping Earth's magnetic field to try to understand its fundamental workings. The scientists say the jet is the best explanation for the patches of concentrated field strength that the satellites observe in the northern hemisphere. "This jet of liquid iron is moving at about fifty kilometres per year," explained Dr Chris Finlay from the National Space Institute at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU Space). “That might not sound like a lot to you on Earth's surface, but you have to remember this a very dense liquid metal and it takes a huge amount of energy to move this thing around and that's probably the fastest motion we have anywhere within the solid Earth,” he told BBC News.

12-14-16 World’s oldest water gets even older
World’s oldest water gets even older
The liquid is found deep down a mine in Canada. The world’s oldest water, which is locked deep within the Earth’s crust, just got even older. The liquid was discovered deep down in a mine in Canada in 2013 and is about 1.5 billion years old. But now, at the same site, scientists from the University of Toronto have found a deeper source of water that is at least 500,000 years more ancient. The research was presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco. Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar, who led the team that made the discovery, told BBC News: “When people think about this water they assume it must be some tiny amount of water trapped within the rock. “But in fact it’s very much bubbling right up out at you. These things are flowing at rates of litres per minute - the volume of the water is much larger than anyone anticipated.” The first pool of ancient water was discovered 2.4km-down in a copper, zinc and silver mine.

11-23-16 Deepest water found 1000km down, a third of way to Earth's core
Deepest water found 1000km down, a third of way to Earth's core
Water identified far below the surface suggests Earth may contain many oceans’-worth of hidden water throughout the mantle. Earth’s mantle may contain many oceans’ worth of water – with the deepest 1000 kilometres down. “If it wasn’t down there, we would all be submerged,” says Steve Jacobsen at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, whose team made the discovery. “This implies a bigger reservoir of water on the planet than previously thought.” This water is much deeper than any seen before, at a third of the way to the edge of Earth’s core. Its presence was indicated by a diamond spat out 90 million years ago by a volcano near the São Luíz river in Juina, Brazil.

8-9-16 The volcanos no one has ever seen.
The volcanos no one has ever seen.
Deep-sea volcanoes are so remote, until recently we did not even know they existed. Now we can see them like never before. We do not see them erupt, yet more than half of the Earth's crust can be attributed to their dramatic explosions. It sounds almost like a riddle. But when you understand the facts, the truth might be even more surprising. The remnants of hundreds of thousands of deep-sea eruptions lie on the ocean floor, deep below the surface of the water. Despite our ignorance, almost 70% of the Earth's crust is believed to be produced at mid-ocean ridges such as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. These are the places where tectonic plates move away from each other. As they do so, magma can erupt into the space, forming new crust where the plates once were. These processes are so powerful that they form enormous volcanoes, similar to Iceland's 2014-2015 Bardarbunga volcano eruption.

7-27-16 New scenario proposed for birth of Pacific Plate
New scenario proposed for birth of Pacific Plate
Largest chunk of Earth’s crust born out of odd tectonic circumstances. Scientists have a new origin story for the Pacific tectonic plate, which now underlies most of the Pacific Ocean. The plate formed in a gap between three other plates, the scientists propose. A three-way tectonic tango may have led to the birth of what is now the largest chunk of Earth’s crust. By scrutinizing what little geologic evidence remains from 190 million years ago, researchers reconstructed the origins of the Pacific tectonic plate, which now covers a fifth of Earth’s surface. The plate formed during the early Jurassic period from a single point where three tectonic plates once met, the work suggests. The plate’s birthplace sat above the gravesite of a section of tectonic plate that sank into the planet’s depths, the researchers report July 27 in Science Advances. The remnants of that sunken plate remain embedded in Earth’s mantle.

7-27-16 Iron-loving elements tell stories of Earth’s history
Iron-loving elements tell stories of Earth’s history
Platinum, gold and other rare metals are treasure trove. Geochemists explore platinum, gold and other rare elements that are attracted to iron to understand how Earth's core formed billions of years ago. Four and a half billion years ago, after Earth’s fiery birth, the infant planet began to radically reshape itself, separating into distinct layers. Metals — mostly iron with a bit of nickel — fell toward the center to form a core. The growing core also vacuumed up other metallic elements, such as platinum, iridium and gold. By the time the core finished forming, about 30 million years later, it had sequestered more than 98 percent of these precious elements. The outer layers of the planet — the mantle and the crust — had barely any platinum and gold left. That’s why these metals are so rare today. By analyzing rare primordial materials, researchers are uncovering geochemical fingerprints that have survived essentially unchanged over billions of years. These fingerprints allow scientists to compare Earth rocks with moon rocks and test ideas about whether giant meteorites once dusted the inner solar system with extraterrestrial platinum and gold. Such research can help scientists learn how volatiles such as water may have spread, leaving some worlds water-rich and others bone-dry.

7-25-16 Ancient air bubbles could revise history of Earth’s oxygen
Ancient air bubbles could revise history of Earth’s oxygen
If new findings are correct, rise in gas preceded earliest animals. Ancient air embedded inside rock salt for 815 million years suggests that oxygen was already abundant when the first animals appeared. The microscopic air bubbles were trapped inside rectangular inclusions in the rock. Whiffs of ancient air trapped in rock salt for hundreds of millions of years are shaking up the history of oxygen and life on Earth. By carefully crushing rock salt, researchers have measured the chemical makeup of air pockets embedded inside the rock. This new technique reveals that oxygen made up 10.9 percent of Earth’s atmosphere around 815 million years ago. Scientists have thought that oxygen levels would not be that high until 100 million to 200 million years later. The measurements place elevated oxygen levels well before the appearance of animals in the fossil record around 650 million years ago, the researchers report in the August issue of Geology. “I think our results will take people by surprise,” says study coauthor Nigel Blamey, a geochemist at Brock University in St. Catharines, Canada. “We came out of left field, and I think some people are going to embrace it, and other people are going to be very skeptical. But the data is what the data is.” (Webmaster's comment: And that's what I report here, whether or not anyone likes it, including myself.)

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How the Earth Was Made

Sioux Falls Scientists endorse How the Earth Was Made as it covers
the history of the planet Earth from its formation from dust
and molten rock to flourishing with human life.