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Presented By: Earth and Environmental Sciences

Smith Lecture - Brian Arbic, University of Michigan

Long-term Earth-Moon Evolution with High-level Orbit and Ocean Tide Models, with Potential Implications for Earth’s Oxygenation

Tidal dissipation in Earth's oceans and solid body cause the distance to the Moon and the length of day to increase over time. Tides also change the eccentricity and tilt of the lunar orbit, and Earth's obliquity (the tilt between the equator plane and the ecliptic plane of our orbit around the Sun).  In this work, we attempt to calculate the evolution of the Earth-Moon system over the whole of Earth's history using sophisticated ocean tide and orbit models.  Over long time scales, the rate at which tidal energy is being dissipated is affected by the geometrical configuration of the continents, the length of day, and mean sea level, which is affected by plate tectonic forces and the presence or absence of large ice caps. The faster rotating Earth of the past was less efficient at dissipating energy and the present placement of the continents enhances some tides due to resonances.  In addition, tidal dissipation in the Moon slows the orbit evolution by absorbing energy from the orbit and there was a time in the distant past when the Moon's tidal dissipation was large. The evolution of the Earth-Moon system is complex and uncertain, but it can be addressed with advanced models.  At the end of the talk, we will briefly discuss related work on the potential implications of the Earth's rotation rate for the history of oxygen on Earth.

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