The Casino Of Meteorology And Life On Earth

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Pablo Edronkin

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If you think about thunder and thunderstorms, far from seeing them as threatening, you should see that they are beneficial and luck bringers; without them, life on Earth would have never appeared or developed.

Life could not have evolved and could not survived on the surface of our planet without thunder and thunderstorms, and we don't just owe them the creation of the ozone required to protect the lower layers of the atmosphere where most living organisms spend their entire lives, and it is not just that storms produce rain and that works well for plants to grow, indeed.

Without thunderstorms life could never evolve: 3.500 million years ago, the first simple and primitive living organisms - bacteria - appeared. There are fossil remains - most come from China and South Africa - of that age, very rare but clearly identifiable. The fossil record of ancient Earth is patchy at best, but what is know suffices scientists to say that complex life evolved around 600 to 700 million years ago, as organisms could grow bigger thanks to the increase in atmospheric pressure.

That increase was provoked by the emission of oxygen, a by-product of photosynthesis; millions of microscopic algae, over hundreds of millions of years had produced enough oxygen to actually create the atmosphere in which we are now immersed. That, in turn, produced more ozone, which is necessary to filter sun rays which are harmful and capable of producing too many aberrant mutations, so evolution stabilised along certain functional paths (i.e organisms began to evolve as a response to environmental requirements instead of just the odds against them in terms of receiving too much radiation), and let them grow big structures and skeletons.

But before that, the two only sources of energy for organisms to evolve were either volcanoes or thunderstorms, for they could not feed in the sense that we do. They depended for a very long time on what they got from the environment.

So in part we are here just because our ancestors were luckily struck by thunder; the appearance and survival of life during the Archean or Archaic era would have been much less factible if it were not for the energy delivered by thunder and violente meteorological events like thunderstorms. Life began and survived based on pure odds, like in a gigantic casino.

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