Imagine the most profound Ice Age you can think of. Temperatures plummet
to below zero even at the equator. Before long, ice encloses our entire
planet. Research suggests that this may have happened not once, but three
times in our planetfs past. Welcome to snowball Earth. A snowball Earth
is certainly the most extreme climate change we can conceive the Earth
having ever experienced. What would happen if the world froze over today?
Massive glaciers creep from the poles, crushing everything in their path.
First of all, the Canadians are gonna have to dig much deeper holes when
they go ice fishing. Next, the governors of Washington, Idaho, Montana,
North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, and Maine will probably declare federal
emergencies. Cities grind to a halt. Power lines collapse and water supplies
freeze. Cars wonft start. Roads are cut off by ice. Buildings strain and
crumble under deep drifts of snow. Everything is entombed. Our frail bodies
struggle to survive. I think human society would collapse if a snowball
Earth happened again. The oceans freeze over. Fish die and marine ecosystems
collapse. Our food supply becomes exhausted. Any surviving humans are trapped
in an icy hell. Whatever mass die-off of humans is simply because we could
not grow enough food under these conditions. Incredible though it may seem,
the Earth may have frozen over completely. Scientists are finding clues
in unexpected places. The story begins with a mystery. In the arid Flinders
Ranges in Southern Australia, layers of ancient rock hold unusual stones.
These stones are foreign to the area. They are known as drop stones. The
drop stones are embedded in an ancient sedimentary sea floor that formed
around 650 million years ago. Tim Raub, a geologist at the Californian
Institute of Technology, hunts for these drop stones at the Flinders Range.
This is an example of a drop stone. A piece of ancient rock that was dropped
into the ancient mud on the sea bottom. These drop stones are visibly different
from the sedimentary bedrock around them. Something powerful must have
carried them here. But what? Dan Schrag, Professor of Earth and Planetary
Sciences at Harvard University, believes the answer is glaciers. We actually
have ice cubes here that wefve made with pieces of sand and gravel in them...so
this - these ice cubes are like the glaciers that are taking rocks from
the land, and then when we put them in the water, theyfll actually melt...and
the sand and gravel will fall to the bottom, just like the drop stones
on the ocean floor. These drop stones are evidence that at some point,
this area was covered in a thick layer of ice.