The Earliest Atmosphere
(4.6 billion years ago)
When Earth formed 4.6 billion years ago from a hot mix of gases and solids, it had almost no atmosphere. The surface was molten. As Earth cooled, an atmosphere formed mainly from gases spewed from volcanoes. It included hydrogen sulfide, methane, and ten to 200 times as much carbon dioxide as today’s atmosphere. After about half a billion years, Earth’s surface cooled and solidified enough for water to collect on it.