Saturday, February 12, 2011

Permian Volcanic Extinction

200,000 years of massive volcanic eruptions that were unending that also burned off huge amounts of coal assures us of one thing.  The atmosphere became saturated with sulphur compounds that made biological survival pretty difficult.  Because all this is atmospheric, there is literally no place to properly hide.  Coal would have contributed strongly to those conditions.

We can assume that all this made the ocean acidic and this brought on the massive Permian marine extinction.

It is a grim warning about the real destructive power of a major volcano such as Hekla in Iceland, which halted the European growing season for two decades after the major eruption of 1159 BCE.  It is the reason why I like to watch what is going on in Iceland and Alaska.  These are the two places that can wreak our civilization in ways we do not imagine.

A volcano field the size of Europe effectively erupting at one point or the other year after year produces a massive collapse in the Hemisphere involved and sharply increases the noxious gas content which does most of the killing.

Erupting volcanoes, burning coal probably caused Earth's first major extinction

By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press | The Canadian Press – Sun, 23 Jan 1:07 PM EST
Thu, 30 Dec 10:54 AM EST

CALGARY - University researchers are suggesting that massive volcanic eruptions led to Earth's first environmental disaster — 190 million years before the demise of the dinosaur.

Up to 95 per cent of all marine species and 70 per cent of land vertebrates became extinct during this Permian-Triassic period. The Great Dying also caused the only known mass extinction of insects.

University of Calgary team that worked in Canada's High Arctic believes it found evidence that volcanoes in Siberia burned through coal, which in turn produced ash clouds that damaged global oceans.

"We found layers of coal ash ... providing the first direct evidence that there was a significant coal combustion going on at the time of extinction," said Steve Grasby from the university's department of geoscience.

Grasby is also a research scientist at Natural Resources Canada.

It's widely believed that dinosaurs met their end 65 million years ago when a meteorite hit the Earth, but the reason for the Permian extinction had been less clear.

"This could literally be the smoking gun," said Grasby.

The impact of the volcanic eruption was so severe that it eliminated all "higher life" over a period of 200,000 years, he said, and it would take another five million years for those life forms to reappear.

The volcanoes covered an area just less than the size of Europe. The ash plumes drifted to regions now in Canada’s Arctic where the researchers found the coal-ash layers.

"We saw layers with abundant organic matter ... exactly like that produced by modern coal-burning power plants," said Benoit Beauchamp, also with the university's geoscience department.

Grasby said the Earth at the time was one big land mass and was similar to the planet we know today. Environments ranged from desert to lush forests and included primitive amphibians, reptiles and a group that would eventually include mammals
The university team's research article is being published in the magazine Nature Geoscience today.

Grasby said geological events as recent as last spring have given the world a taste of the disruption volcanoes can trigger.

"Large eruptions can cause some global atmospheric effects, just like the Icelandic volcano shutting down air travel," he said.

"But this was on a scale far beyond that. It was one of the largest in Earth history."

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