Could passing through an interstellar dust cloud have triggered a Neoproterozoic Snowball Earth?
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The Interstellar Dust Hypothesis has been posited as a possible triggering mechanism for a Neoproterozoic Snowball Earth event [Pavlov et al., 2005]. This hypothesis is reevaluated using a zero-dimensional computer energy balance model with a more accurate set of optical assumptions for the dust layer. It is determined that a model with a reflective and absorptive dust layer has about a 20% reduction in the radiative forcing caused by the dust layer as compared to a model with a purely reflective dust layer. This reduction in the radiative forcing suggests that the results obtained by Pavlov et al.  may be an underestimate for the dust cloud densities required to trigger a Snowball Earth event. However, even with the percent reduction in the radiative forcing, both climate models experience a substantial decrease in the incoming solar energy and serious surface temperature reduction, which would likely result in noticeable climate changes.
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