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This review summarizes and assesses a series of papers presented at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in 2011 on the changing composition of Earth's early atmosphere. This is a developing field, with differing views, due largely to the facts of an incomplete rock record and negligible preservation of the gaseous components of the atmosphere. Nevertheless, there are constraints, available through geological proxies in the form of chemical sedimentary rocks that reflect the composition of the hydrosphere, and because the two are directly linked, the atmosphere. A review of the geological constraints on atmospheric conditions is presented for early Earth, from its formation at 4.56 Ga up to 1.8 Ga, followed by a developing model that links changing atmosphere/hydrosphere conditions and biosphere evolution to changes in planetary tectonics, including the evolving supercontinent cycle.

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