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Nov 21 / Dave Schumaker

Continents Present on Earth Earlier Than Thought?

Using a rare metal element called hafnium, a team of researchers have concluded that continents and other solid land masses were present on Earth much earlier than originally though. Their results indicate that continental crust was formed as early as 4.4 – 4.5 billion years ago.

“These results support the view that the continental crust had formed by 4.4-4.5 billion years ago and was rapidly recycled into the mantle,” the researchers wrote in Science Express. Led by Professor Mark Harrison of the Australian National University, the team also included University of Colorado Assistant Professor Stephen Mojzsis and researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles and Ecole Normale Superieure University in France.

The researchers used hafnium as a “tracer” element, using isotopes to infer the existence of early continental formation on Earth dating to Hadeon Eon, which took place during the first 500 million years of Earth’s history, said Mojzsis, an assistant professor of geological sciences at CU-Boulder. Mojzsis also is a member of CU-Boulder’s Center for Astrobiology.

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