We can learn a lot about climate change from Venus, our sister planet. Venus currently has a surface temperature of 840 degrees F (450 degrees C) – the temperature of an oven’s self-cleaning cycle – and an atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide (96%) with a density 90 times that of Earth’s.
Venus is a very strange place, totally uninhabitable, except perhaps in the clouds some 40 miles (60 km) up where the recent discovery of phosphine may suggest floating microbial life. But the surface is totally inhospitable.
However, Venus once likely had an Earth-like climate. According to recent climate modeling, for much of its history Venus had surface temperatures similar to present day Earth. It likely also had oceans, rain, perhaps snow, maybe continents and plate tectonics, and even more speculatively, perhaps even surface life.Less than one billion years ago, the climate dramatically changed due to a runaway greenhouse effect. It can be speculated that an intensive period of volcanism pumped enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to cause this great climate change event that evaporated the oceans and caused the end of the water cycle.
Venus has a surface temperature of 840 degrees F (450 degrees C) and an atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide, with a density 90 times that of Earth’s. However, for much of its history, Venus likely had an Earth-like climate, with oceans, rain, perhaps snow, maybe continents and plate tectonics, and even more speculatively, perhaps even surface life. Then, less than a billion years ago, Venus’ climate dramatically changed due to a runaway greenhouse effect.
Evidence of change
This hypothesis from the climate modelers inspired Sara Khawja, a master’s student in my group (co-supervised with geoscientist Claire Samson), to look for evidence in Venusian rocks for this proposed climatic change event.
Since the early 1990s, my Carleton University research team – and more recently my Siberian team at Tomsk State University – have been mapping and interpreting the geological and tectonic history of Earth’s remarkable sister planet.
geological evidence of the great climate change event led us to focus on the oldest type of rocks on Venus, called tesserae, which have a complex appearance suggestive of a long, complicated geological history. We thought that these oldest rocks had the best chance of preserving evidence of water erosion, which is a such an important process on Earth and should have occurred on Venus prior to the great climate change event.
NASA will launch to Venus
June 2 (UPI) — NASA plans to send two new spacecraft to study Venus as the first U.S. missions to the Earth-sized planet since 1989, agency administrator Bill Nelson said Wednesday.
The missions, known as DAVINCI+ and Veritas, would use sensors to analyze the searing hot atmosphere in an attempt to determine how it evolved, and to map the rugged surface.
“Both aim to understand how Venus became an inferno capable of melting lead at the surface,” Nelson said during the annual State of NASA address in Washington D.C.
“They will offer the entire science community the chance to investigate a planet we haven’t been to in more than 30 years
NASA estimates each mission will launch during a three-year span starting in 2028. Each is estimated to cost $500 million.
The DAVINCI+ spacecraft would parachute into the hot atmosphere and possibly help scientists learn if Venus ever had oceans.
To survive the nearly hourlong descent, the probe would be encapsulated in a sphere to shield the sensors.
DAVINCI+ would provide “a complete cross section of Venus’ atmosphere at a level of detail that has not been possible on earlier missions,” according to NASA’s description of the mission.
The name is an acronym for Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry and Imaging Plus.
VERITAS would be an orbiter that would map Venus’ surface to determine the planet’s geologic history and help scientists to understand why Venus developed so differently than Earth.
The spacecraft would chart surface elevations over nearly the entire planet to confirm whether it has plate tectonics and volcanic activity, according to NASA.
VERITAS stands for Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography and Spectroscopy.
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