Rapid emergence of subaerial landmasses and onset of a modern hydrologic cycle 2.5 billion years ago

Bindeman, I. N.; Zakharov, D. O.; Palandri, J.; Greber, Nicolas; Dauphas, N.; Retallack, G. J.; Hofmann, A.; Lackey, J. S.; Bekker, A. (2018). Rapid emergence of subaerial landmasses and onset of a modern hydrologic cycle 2.5 billion years ago. Nature, 557(7706), pp. 545-548. Macmillan Journals Ltd. 10.1038/s41586-018-0131-1

[img] Text
Bindeman_Nature_2018.pdf - Published Version
Restricted to registered users only
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (6MB) | Request a copy

The history of the growth of continental crust is uncertain, and several different models that involve a gradual, decelerating, or stepwise process have been proposed1,2,3,4. Even more uncertain is the timing and the secular trend of the emergence of most landmasses above the sea (subaerial landmasses), with estimates ranging from about one billion to three billion years ago5,6,7. The area of emerged crust influences global climate feedbacks and the supply of nutrients to the oceans8, and therefore connects Earth’s crustal evolution to surface environmental conditions9,10,11. Here we use the triple-oxygen-isotope composition of shales from all continents, spanning 3.7 billion years, to provide constraints on the emergence of continents over time. Our measurements show a stepwise total decrease of 0.08 per mille in the average triple-oxygen-isotope value of shales across the Archaean–Proterozoic boundary. We suggest that our data are best explained by a shift in the nature of water–rock interactions, from near-coastal in the Archaean era to predominantly continental in the Proterozoic, accompanied by a decrease in average surface temperatures. We propose that this shift may have coincided with the onset of a modern hydrological cycle owing to the rapid emergence of continental crust with near-modern average elevation and aerial extent roughly 2.5 billion years ago.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Greber, Nicolas


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Macmillan Journals Ltd.




Nicolas Greber

Date Deposited:

15 Aug 2019 11:39

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:29

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:






Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback