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Lunar nodal tide and distance to the Moon during the Precambrian


The pace of tidal evolution for the past 450 Myr implies an Earth/Moon collision some 1,500–2,000 Myr BP (see ref. 1), an event for which there is no corroborating evidence. Here we present the first direct determination of the lunar distance in the Precambrian. We interpret a 23.3±0.3-yr periodicity preserved in a 2,500 Myr BP Australian banded iron formation (BIF)2 as reflecting the climatic influence of the lunar nodal tide, which has been detected with its modern 18.6-yr periodicity in some modern climate records3–10. The lunar distance at 2,500 Myr BP would then have been about 52 Earth radii. The implied history of Precambrian tidal friction is in accord with both the more recent palaeontological evidence and the long-term stability of the lunar orbit. The length of the Milankovitch cycles that modulate the ice ages today11–13 also evolve with the Earth–Moon system. Their detection in the Precambrian sedimentary record would then permit an independent determination of the lunar distance.

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Walker, J., Zahnle, K. Lunar nodal tide and distance to the Moon during the Precambrian. Nature 320, 600–602 (1986).

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