How long has there been water on Earth?
How and when in the history of Earth did the first water appear?
Water has always been present on Earth, in one form or another. It was present, as ice and in water-bearing minerals called clays, in the planetesimals that the Earth was built from, and more water arrived in the form of comets. Some water, in the form of vapor and ice crystals, has always been present in the atmosphere of the Earth. Water vapor is also released from the Earth's interior by volcanoes.
But, I am being a little coy . . . I am guessing that you are wondering when Earth first had liquid water. The answer is probably earlier than you think! The Earth is about four and a half billion years old. It's difficult to study what the Earth was like back then, because the Earth's crust is constantly being recycled, and very few rocks are that old. However, we do have a little bit of rock that is 4,400,000,000 years old, found on the continent of Australia. This rock shows evidence that the surface of the Earth was solid and cool when this rock solidified, just 600,000,000 years after the Earth was formed!
There was even liquid water present where this rock solidified!
So as far back as we have geological evidence of what the Earth was like, there was liquid water present.
Get More 'Curious?' with Our New PODCAST:
- Podcast? Subscribe? Tell me about the Ask an Astronomer Podcast
- Subscribe to our Podcast | Listen to our current Episode
- Cool! But I can't now. Send me a quick reminder now for later.
How to ask a question:
If you have a follow-up question concerning the above subject, submit it here. If you have a question about another area of astronomy, find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.
This page has been accessed 42527 times since May 22, 2004.
Last modified: May 22, 2004 1:37:56 PM
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.
Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)