Gradually heading to hell in a handbasket just as bad as instant doom

From the National Science Foundation:
Global Extinction: Gradual Doom as Bad as Abrupt

Photo of Griesbach Creek in the Arctic.

Photo of Griesbach Creek in the Arctic. The geology of Griesbach Creek in the Arctic tells an ancient tale of slow extinction. Credit: C.M. Henderson

In “The Great Dying” 250 million years ago, the end came slowly

The deadliest mass extinction of all took a long time to kill 90 percent of Earth’s marine life–and it killed in stages–according to a newly published report.

It shows that mass extinctions need not be sudden events.

Thomas Algeo, a geologist at the University of Cincinnati, and 13 colleagues have produced a high-resolution look at the geology of a Permian-Triassic boundary section on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic.

Their analysis, published today in the Geological Society of America Bulletin, provides strong evidence that Earth’s biggest mass extinction phased in over hundreds of thousands of years.

About 252 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, Earth almost became a lifeless planet.

Around 90 percent of all living species disappeared then, in what scientists have called “The Great Dying.”

Algeo and colleagues have spent much of the past decade investigating the chemical evidence buried in rocks formed during this major extinction.

The world revealed by their research is a devastated landscape, barren of vegetation and scarred by erosion from showers of acid rain, huge “dead zones” in the oceans, and runaway greenhouse warming leading to sizzling temperatures.

The evidence that Algeo and his colleagues are looking at points to massive volcanism in Siberia as a factor.

“The scientists relate this extinction to Siberian Traps volcanic eruptions, which likely first affected boreal life through toxic gas and ashes,” said H. Richard Lane, program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research.

The Siberian Traps form a large region of volcanic rock in Siberia. The massive eruptive event which formed the traps, one of the largest known volcanic events of the last 500 million years of Earth’s geologic history, continued for a million years and spanned the Permian-Triassic boundary.

The term “traps” is derived from the Swedish word for stairs–trappa, or trapp–referring to the step-like hills that form the landscape of the region.

A large portion of western Siberia reveals volcanic deposits up to five kilometers (three miles) thick, covering an area equivalent to the continental United States. The lava flowed where life was most endangered, through a large coal deposit.

“The eruption released lots of methane when it burned through the coal,” Algeo said. “Methane is 30 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

“We’re not sure how long the greenhouse effect lasted, but it seems to have been tens or hundreds of thousands of years.”

Much of the evidence was washed into the ocean, and Algeo and his colleagues look for it among fossilized marine deposits.

Previous investigations have focused on deposits created by a now vanished ocean known as Tethys, a precursor to the Indian Ocean. Those deposits, in South China particularly, record a sudden extinction at the end of the Permian.

“In shallow marine deposits, the latest Permian mass extinction was generally abrupt,” Algeo said. “Based on such observations, it has been widely inferred that the extinction was a globally synchronous event.”

Recent studies are starting to challenge that view.

Algeo and co-authors focused on rock layers at West Blind Fiord on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic.

That location, at the end of the Permian, would have been much closer to the Siberian volcanoes than sites in South China.

The Canadian sedimentary rock layers are 24 meters (almost 80 feet) thick and cross the Permian-Triassic boundary, including the latest Permian mass extinction horizon.

The investigators looked at how the type of rock changed from the bottom to the top. They looked at the chemistry of the rocks and at the fossils contained in the rocks.

They discovered a total die-off of siliceous sponges about 100,000 years earlier than the marine mass extinction event recorded at Tethyan sites.

What appears to have happened, according to Algeo and his colleagues, is that the effects of early Siberian volcanic activity, such as toxic gases and ash, were confined to the northern latitudes.

Only after the eruptions were in full swing did the effects reach the tropical latitudes of the Tethys Ocean.

The research was also supported by the Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Exobiology Program.

In addition to Algeo, co-authors of the paper are: Charles Henderson, University of Calgary; Brooks Ellwood, Louisiana State University; Harry Rowe, University of Texas at Arlington; Erika Elswick, Indiana University, Bloomington; Steven Bates and Timothy Lyons, University of California, Riverside; James Hower, University of Kentucky; Christina Smith and Barry Maynard, University of Cincinnati; Lindsay Hays and Roger Summons, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; James Fulton, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; and Katherine Freeman, Pennsylvania State University.

-NSF-

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78 thoughts on “Gradually heading to hell in a handbasket just as bad as instant doom

  1. “Around 90 percent of all living species disappeared then . . .”

    Just curious, isn’t this based on models of how many species supposedly would have been alive millions of years ago under various hypotheses? Seems like the number of different fossilized remains actually discovered doesn’t even come close to this number? Even accounting for lack of fossilization in certain areas and with certain types of organisms, I’m wondering how accurate this number is.

    In any event, it is pretty hard to argue that slow extinction is as bad as abrupt. Certainly not for the many individual members of the species who lived out their lives just fine, thank you very much, during the slow decline. Indeed, some pundits have suggested that humans will eventually go extinct and may even be on the road now. Sure. OK. But I’ll take that over an abrupt extinction event tomorrow afternoon.

  2. “Gradually heading to hell in a handbasket just as bad as instant doom”

    Is this headline meant to be serious or sarcastic? Because it’s obviously not at all as bad. If I know things are getting bad I can take steps to alleviate them and avoid exposing others — not having kids, for instance. But if a meteor comes out of nowhere, say, I can’t do any of that.

    Even if I knew with absolute certainty that the world would be crap in five hundred years, why should that bother me? I plan to be dead.

  3. “The eruption released lots of methane when it burned through the coal,” Algeo said.

    This is pure speculation I would think. If the lava was hot enough to burn thru the coal, it should have easily ignited any methane to turn it into CO2. Also, shouldn’t all of the sulfur and ash have sent the earth into the deepfreeze? A few minor volcanoes these days are thought to have caused up to 2C of cooling over short periods of time. In addition, a little sulfur dioxide and particulates from the Chinese coal power plants these days are being blamed for overpowering the warming effect of the massive emissions of CO2 from man.

  4. Agreed with Mike Bromley. Assertions of “runaway global warming” are in contradiction with temperature measurements from ice-cores. They pulled that one straight out of their @…

  5. Fascinating article.

    I disagree with just one of the contentions – that earth almost became a lifeless planet.

    This sounds like Bill ‘the-end-is-nigh’ McKibben speak for ‘quite a lot of change happened’ (but over hundreds of thousands of years….)

    From a slightly different perspective, at the end of that period there were in the region of one million species on earth, all extremely well-adapted to the conditions of the time – hot, acidic, whatever.

    Change doesn’t have to be a terrible thing, even if it is dramatic! Does anyone have a particular fondness for the species that existed before the change, as opposed to those that appeared in the great ‘explosion’ of new life that occurred after it?

  6. Yeh, I’m betting on it. That’s prolly exactly what happened.
    “They discovered a total die-off of siliceous sponges about 100,000 years earlier than the marine mass extinction event recorded at Tethyan sites.”…… cause over 100,000 years nothing would replace it…… Happens all the time. That’s almost how nature works.

  7. But the question remains, what could have triggered such violent and sustained volcanic activity?

    For species that can built spaceships, long time-scale extinction events are really not a problem… why didn’t those sponges built spaceships…

    I’ve got news for those people, someday our sun will go supernova and before that there will be some other space calamity coming to earth. It’s a bumpy road in space. We better start planning our escape instead of trying to bring humanity back to the stone ages.

  8. … The lava flowed where life was most endangered, through a large coal deposit.

    “The eruption released lots of methane when it burned through the coal,” Algeo said. “Methane is 30 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.”

    Must have been crappy brown coal, not anthracite which is 92%+ carbon. Could have been lignite.

    Question: Peat is considered a precursor to coal. Could this “large coal deposit” have actually been a large peat deposit, of which virtually any wetlands may qualify as one, which turned into coal during the 250+ million years since the event?

  9. Alrighty then.

    If there was ever a time for the urgent development of a UN volcano suppression project, it is now, or maybe later.

    Start with a convention. Bali would be nice as Krakatoa is in the neighborhood.

    P.S. “Around 90 percent of all living species disappeared then, in what scientists have called “The Great Dying.””

    Who calls it that? Smells like a Greenpeacian word to me.

  10. You may want to note that the Permian-Triassic was coincidental with a major galactic cosmic ray flux minimum while our solar system was between spiral arms of our galaxy. If you think the SKY and CLOUD experiments have any validity, there is a much simpler truth struggling to get out into the open.

    “Celestial driver of phanerozoic climate?” (Shaviv & Veizer 2003) is as good a reference as any for this.

  11. The NSF’s capacity for idiocy continues to astound. Do they not study history and humanity’s fantastic abilities to adapt to an environment? Do they know this lesson but are unable to extrapolate from our current technological base into a worthwhile picture of future adaptation?

  12. This paper has been published and will now sink without a trace. I always thought volcanism was associated with cooling, not warming.

  13. Here is something somewhat related to this story. The Canadian CBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, our version of the BBC and Australia’s ABC has an interesting science program called Quirks and Quarks. It is interesting until they get into any subject on climate change Now science should follow the scientific method, but this show true to warmist form does not when it comes to climate warming change. The host Jay Ingram is very biased. Here is a link, follow down to Launching the Little Ice Age and have a listen. One of the points being because of warming caused by increasing C02 there now can be no cooling by volcanism.

  14. Must have been that “fundamental transformation” that Obama yaks about. Who knew he had a time machine? ;)

  15. @nc February 8, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    The host Jay Ingram is very biased

    I think you may be confusing Jay Ingram (who at least has a BSc and an MSc) with Bob McDonald (who has neither). In the interest of truth in posting … from:

    http://archives.cbc.ca/programs/601-11853/page/3/

    The first host of [Quirks and Quarks] was outspoken geneticist David Suzuki, at the helm from 1975 to 1979. Jay Ingram hosted from 1979 to 1991, and Bob McDonald has been host since 1992.

  16. There’s also this little item:..’it has been widely inferred that the extinction was a a globally synchronous event.
    Recent studies are starting to challenge that now.’

    Well blow me down, does that mean the science is never settled? Who woulda thunk it!

  17. I’m skeptical about a geologist named A-one geo, especially when long term global extinction is liked to a heated coal deposit. There is an immediate feel that the time scale, the volume scale and the chemistry is wrong. However, I have committed the sin of not yet reading the paper, so please regard this as gut reaction.

  18. well, the “survival of some States” is at stake!

    1 Feb: AP: Karl Ritter: Nobel peace prize jury under investigation
    Nobel Peace Prize officials were facing a formal inquiry over accusations they have drifted away from the prize’s original selection criteria by choosing such winners as President Barack Obama, as the nomination deadline for the 2012 awards closed Wednesday…
    Fredrik Heffermehl, a prominent researcher and critic of the selection process, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that “Nobel called it a prize for the champions of peace.”…
    Especially after World War II, the prize committee, which is appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, has widened the scope of the prize to include environmental, humanitarian and other efforts, he said.
    For example, in 2007 the prize went to climate activist Al Gore and the U.N.’s panel on climate change, and in 2009 the committee cited Obama for “extraordinary efforts” to boost international diplomacy…
    Geir Lundestad, the nonvoting secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, dismissed Heffermehl’s claims.
    “Fighting climate change is definitely closely related to fraternity between nations. It even concerns the survival of some states,” he told AP…

    http://news.yahoo.com/nobel-peace-prize-jury-under-investigation-152500580.html

  19. The volcanic deposits are up to 5 kilometres thick, 16,000 feet, higher than the Rockies.

    All science papers that touch on climate have to talk about greenhouse gases or they don’t get published. This study just says the extinction event took hundred of thousands of years, which almost everyone assumed anyway given the Siberian Traps volcanoes lasted for over a million years.

    The Tethys sea extinctions are probably related to the fact that it got too warm in that ocean for complex life in the Permian. It would have been up to 45C in the relatively enclosed margin of the sea at the equator at the time.

  20. “The eruption released lots of methane when it burned through the coal,” Algeo said. “Methane is 30 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.”
    ————————————————
    Isn’t 30 times almost nothing still almost nothing?

  21. The earth will end someday. This is a fact.
    So-do we commit suicide today? or next week?

    Um-but one thing pops to mind. Those extinctions. Are they ‘real’ extinctions or some of those: “Oh golly we THOUGHT it was” kind of extinction that we hear about every week or so?

    Too often these days when one reads a headline, you have a hard time determining if the story’s from a politician or a ‘scientist’. (If you thought you sense a sneer on both-you’d be correct.)

  22. “Al Gored says:
    February 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    I just realized how catastrophic my life is. I have been gradually dying since I was born.”

    No, you have been gradually dying since the very first cell division just after your mother’s egg let that one sperm in. Remember we are not getting out of here alive!

    Someone said, “Good Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die”, therefore gradually heading to hell in a handbasket is a very healthfull method vrs instant doom!

  23. So, essentially, being a fish, it is an equal hell to be brought to a boil and cooked alive until you die and getting a sound whacking and killed before you get cooked. Somehow I dare to doubt it, although I wonder, is it the same for sushi fishy’s, because that would be awesome to torment the fake veggies with. :p

  24. Runaway greenhouse warming?

    A runaway requires positive feedback; a ball balanced atop an inverted bowl is an example. The slightest nudge from the balance point results in the ball being accelerated away from its original position until it irreversibly rolls off of the bowl. The consequences of runaway greenhouse warming are also irreversible, yet here we are today. This cognitive dissonance can be resolved by dismissing the concept of “runaway” anything regards to major feedback mechanisms that govern Earth’s climate. They are fun if you like scary stories but otherwise don’t have much practical utility.

    Why are we here today despite the Siberian Trap poisoning of 250 million years ago? Set the bowl right side up and place the ball in it. Now any disturbance that moves the ball generates an opposing force that works to restore it to its original position (that’s negative feedback to a EE).

    The earth is the opposite of fragile, it is in fact nearly impervious to upset. Proof is the significant disturbances it has seen in the past, yet here we are today.

  25. Haven’t read the paper yet, but it sounds like a load of bulls**t. Can you imagine how much Ash/SO2/whatnot would make it into the stratosphere? Or how if the gas were so “well mixed” it’d stay in the NH for 100,000 years?

    Look at the GCR minimum which coincides perfectly with the event. We went into the GCR minimum, then came out of it, hence the grouping and timables to extinctions of different species. All it takes to mess with the environment, even to “barren” form, is to perturb the conditions the species were used to living under.

  26. Perspective and scale.

    These sorts of studies have academic value only.

    250,000,000 years ago for goodness sake. Has no relavence to what might or might not happen in my lifetime or that of my kids or their kids or their……their….their….kids.
    Yes good to know, yes interesting, yes good discussion point, but irrelavent.

  27. ‘“The eruption released lots of methane when it burned through the coal,” Algeo said. “Methane is 30 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.”‘

    Oh. My. God. That would have been like 911 times 1,344,834!!!

  28. @Jon Jermey says:
    February 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    “[...]
    Even if I knew with absolute certainty that the world would be crap in five hundred years, why should that bother me? I plan to be dead.”

    Yeah, but the upside is you can still vote in Chicago elections. The downside is you won’t know who you voted for.

  29. “Around 90 percent of all living species disappeared then, in what scientists have called “The Great Dying.””

    Umh… we don’t know how many species are living actually now on this planet. Lots of them are still unknown.
    How can he state “90% of all livin species” back then? Have there been scientists cataloging 100% of all species? Wow… must have been diligent people.

  30. “The eruption released lots of methane when it burned through the coal,” Algeo said. “Methane is 30 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.”
    “We’re not sure how long the greenhouse effect lasted, but it seems to have been tens or hundreds of thousands of years.”
    Much of the evidence was washed into the ocean, and Algeo and his colleagues look for it among fossilized marine deposits.

    In the quote above it says that they “look” for the evidence that was washed away, not that they “looked” for it. It sound like they are still looking for the evidence and haven’t found it yet. Maybe they can look for Trendbert’s “missing heat” while they’re at it.

    At least they give us some assurance that “irreversible climate change” isn’t really as irreversible as Hansen claims. After a few hundred thousands years (according to the evidence they’re still searching for), everything goes back to normal.

  31. “The eruption released lots of methane when it burned through the coal,” Algeo said. “Methane is 30 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.”

    Umm, did the physical laws change again? As with massive CO2 in the past NOT causing run-away global warming, this quote demands repeated rebuttals.

    If, as the authors say, the magma burned through the coal bed, would the methane released not ignite instantly (upon reaching the 02 filled atmosphere) under such heat as well?

  32. The key to the Permian-Triassic extnciton event is that it took tens to hundreds of thousands to millions of years.

    Form this one can infer that the earth’s atmosphere and oceans are rather resistant to large scale changes and mass extinctions, it takes a very long time (hundreds of thousands of years) to heat the atmosphere and oceans and cause major problems, the AGW brigade want to push it into just decades.

    This is where I think they will be shown to be wrong, their rates of geological change are all mixed up, by several orders of magnitude. Humans have never understood ‘deep time’ with regards to geological science very well.

  33. “runaway greenhouse warming leading to sizzling temperatures.”

    The money phrase—there always has to be one. It’s a rule.

    Form available science, a runaway greenhouse effect is impossible.

  34. The implication of the headline “gradual doom as bad as extinction” is that what happened in this extinction is the same as the present day.We know that there was a lot of volcanic activity at this time which would have caused an increase in greenhouse gasses but the atmospheric pressure was higher at this time than it is know which mean that we cannot compare the effects that greenhouse gasses had then with the effects they might have now.It is not wrong to compare what happened in this extinction to our increasing level of co2 in the atmosphere today,it is dishonest ,and this dishonesty is found in nearly all of the so called overwhelming evidence in favour of agw.

  35. How does magma “burning through coal” generate methane? Even if this is some hydrogen rich magma what’s to stop any methane (and hydrogen) reacting with oxygen in the air?

  36. I submitted a ‘opinion piece’ to WUWT about this very subject. On analysis, the radiometric dates for the Siberian Traps show a central tendency which POST-dates the P/Tr boundary:

    Traps: 251 – 249 million years before present;
    Accepted date of Permo-Triassic boundary: 252.3 million years before present

    WUWT????

    Mark H.

    REPLY: I get hundreds of emails a day, I haven’t seen it, but I’ll look again -Anthony

  37. A recent science program on the BBC a biologist had a kitchen mock up in which food and drink was monitored for six weeks as it changed from a smelly rotting mess to compost.

    One statement really amazed me : He said that at the beginning of the Carboniferous era nature created a new substance : lignin. There was nothing which could break it down and recycle it, so for 70 million years ALL the lignin [wood] created could not rot, hence the creation of coal seams. It also elevated the oxygen levels in the atmosphere. Eventually nature adapted and lignin could be recycled.

    If carbon from the atmosphere was sequestered for 70 million years I wonder what its composition was during this period, especially CO2. I have the impression that this era was very warm. It also explains why the elevated oxygen levels came about [I thought up to 30%] which allowed the giant insects to thrive. I also thought dinosaurs relied on higher oxygen levels than we have now.

  38. A large scale release of methane into the atmosphere heralds a large scale anoxic event as the methane oxidizes to CO2 and water. Runaway global warming? I don’t think so. A rapid reduction of atmospheric oxygen would be a real killer and with many plant species caught in the extinction due to the sulphur released by the eruption of the traps oxygen replenishment would take a long time.

    The Mediterranean is what is left of the Tethys ocean.

  39. Earth was in the state of Pangea at the time of the Sibirian Traps eruptions. This theory was put out some time ago & was shown several years ago on BBC2’s Horizon science (when it was one)programme. Interestingly, no mention in the programme was made of Pangea, leaving many people probably with the impression that Earth was as it is today. The theory was that the eruptions raised temperatures globally by 5°C, but not enough to cause mass extinction in itself (interesting point re AGW), but this of course was supposed to have melted the methane clathrate in the sea floors raising temperature by another 5°C, causing the extinction events. Old news!

  40. Mark Hladik said:
    “I submitted a ‘opinion piece’ to WUWT about this very subject. On analysis, the radiometric dates for the Siberian Traps show a central tendency which POST-dates the P/Tr boundary.”

    The start of a mantle plume is often the most violent, as the ascending magma mushrooms to the surface. So the start of the traps might have been severe, but which is now largely buried under the extensive overlying traps. Just a thought. Nearly all the large mantle plumes are associated temporally in the geological record with increased/mass extinctions.

  41. Jon Jermey says:
    February 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm
    ““Gradually heading to hell in a handbasket just as bad as instant doom”

    Is this headline meant to be serious or sarcastic? Because it’s obviously not at all as bad. If I know things are getting bad I can take steps to alleviate them and avoid exposing others — not having kids, for instance. ”

    You won’t escape extinction by not having kids.

  42. anticlimactic says:
    February 9, 2012 at 1:00 am
    “One statement really amazed me : He said that at the beginning of the Carboniferous era nature
    created a new substance : lignin. There was nothing which could break it down and recycle it, so for 70 million years ALL the lignin [wood] created could not rot, hence the creation of coal seams.”

    That statement would have amazed me as well, as fire is easily capable of breaking down lignin. So the only reason this wouldn’t have happened would be a lack of oxygen, and with a lack of oxygen, it also becomes pointless for any microorganism to try to use lignin as food. I would think that during all that time, all the mutants that tried to make their living chewing lignin simply had a bad business model and vanished again.

  43. It will be a momentous day for science when all concede that there is no such thing as a greenhouse gas once the greenhouse ventilators have been fully opened to space. Open up those ventilators and the major greenhouse gas, air we call it, commences on its outward journey and those few molecules that are better able to absorb, and emit, heat, such as water vapour and CO2 go along with it. The whole ‘convects’ rapidly and photons are emitted at the speed of light. The heat goes back to space and there is nothing that I have been able to find in accepted physics that would suggest that any overall warming of the atmosphere can take place. The AGW people have their ‘back radiation’ which seems to me to be the postulation of a sort of effective pissing into the wind. Even the skeptics tend to allow that there must be some warming but the laws of thermodynamics do not permit even that.

    I would like just one skeptic to attempt to convince me that there is any warming at all. Start with an atmosphere consisting solely of methane (adjusted to match the present atmospheric mass) and convince me that the temperature out on my stoep would increase by a fraction of a degree. I would not be impressed by an explanation that began hundreds of million years ago when terrestrial thermal conditions were not remotely similar to those of today.

    .

  44. Anthony:

    Just in case, if you sent a fax number to my primary e-mail, I could fax it to you. All of the formating and subsection headings disappeared when it showed up in the “Submit a Story” box.

    Thingadonta (“toothed item?”): Not disputing that something happened in regards to the Siberian Large Igneous Province (LIP). I used some University of Leicester (sp?) data which showed the accepted radiometric dates (cross-matched and based on several methods) are centered on 250 million years ago. If that is the case, then most, if not all, of the Traps were erupted AFTER the Permian extinction had taken place.

    It was in the course of researching my submission to WUWT that I found the new boundary date had been accepted by the geological community.

    If Anthony and his team of moderators decide to post my article, you will see the detail I go into.

    Thanks to all,

    Mark H.

  45. Mark Hladik says:
    February 8, 2012 at 11:34 pm
    I submitted a ‘opinion piece’ to WUWT about this very subject. On analysis, the radiometric dates for the Siberian Traps show a central tendency which POST-dates the P/Tr boundary:
    Traps: 251 – 249 million years before present;
    Accepted date of Permo-Triassic boundary: 252.3 million years before present
    —————————————

    The best paper on the Siberian Traps was co-authored by all the main experts on it. I assume it was meant to be a consensus piece.

    All of the various volcanic outflows are dated to starting at 252.7 Mya and some outflows are dated as late as 242.1 Mya (now remember we are going backwards in time here).

    http://www.le.ac.uk/gl/ads/SiberianTraps/PDF%20Files/Reichow%20et%20al.%202009.pdf

    So the extinction at 252.3 Mya falls within what might have been the most intense period.

    ———————-

    Right at the extinction event, the do18 isotope data says global temperatures fell by up to 9.0C, not increased as the pro-AGW set likes to imagine. I used a 1 million year smoothing program on the isotope data to produce a higher resolution temperature estimate timeline. The peak of the downspike is at 251.4 Mya. I think this downspike has been missed before because others using this data have used a longer smoothing program (Veizer, Shaviv – 50 million years; Royer, Berner 50 million years – Rhode at global waming art used 3 million years).

  46. I have never accepted the idea that the Siberian traps caused:
    The world to warm (Volcanoes = SOx which means cooling)
    Were solely responsible for the mass extinction event.

    The theory that I favor is a major impact event which either caused or greatly enhanced the volcanic activity in Siberia via an antipodal effect

    http://www.newgeology.us/presentation35.html

    So where is the crater? Your guess is as good as mine. Theories include that it was long ago subducted via plate tectonics, or it may be off the coast of Australia or under the antarctic ice (Wilkes Land Crater).

  47. Most rocks are sedimentary, that is, formed by the action of water on a massive scale. When you examine sedimentary rock, you find ‘fossil graveyards’ on a massive scale. Ages attributed to these catastrophic layers are not (can not be) directly measured, they are assumed. The initial assumptions (in the 1800’s) were based on ‘non-catastrophic’ accumulations of sediment. If you examine the evidence in the light of today’s technology, the rocks scream ‘catastrophe’. Coal, by the way, is also a sedimentary deposit and can contain marine fossils. Sedimentary rock is found on the tops of the highest mountains. There are major problems in current understandings of geology because of dogmatic theories that geologists cling to, exactly the same as the AGW proponents do. For example, we find coal seams with vertical ‘coalified’ tree trunks extending through supposedly thousands of years of deposits, and yet neither the ‘bark’, nor the cellular structure shows any sign of decomposition. According to current theories, the laws of physics have been suspended for a few thousand years for the sole purpose of preserving the theories of the scientists. Dogma trumps Truth every time.
    Ian

  48. H.R. says:
    “Yeah, but the upside is you can still vote in Chicago elections. The downside is you won’t know who you voted for.”

    You can rest assured that it will be a Democrat.

  49. Bill and “Heck”- is – like – Newark:

    As you point out, the eruption(s) took place over a period of time; in general, the terminal extinction event took place very rapidly, AND, as Anthony has previously posted (unable to supply reference), the last 5 – 10 million years of the Permian already had a significant extinction underway. The ‘extended’ extinction (counted as the number of species going extinct) was greater than the Chixculub event.

    If the Siberian LIP did anything, it was likely to cause global cooling, and not warming, due to the sulfurous aerosols.

    Mods: if you are able to find Anthony’s chart, perhaps you can append it, or add it as a comment. It is an interesting chart.

    Thanks,

    Mark H.

  50. Everyone seems to have missed the point, COAL. Where did the COAL come from? at 500 million years there was not enough life around (or time) to create ‘Fossil Fuel’, COAL.
    Maybe Thomas Gold was right, at the least someone should ask the question; where did the COAL came from.
    FYI: Peat does not become coal.

  51. I saw a presentation years ago on this theory, including video of a researcher visiting the artic exposure where “the evidence” is viewed. What I took away from the presentation was that the speaker absolutely hated the current prevailing theories extant at that time and that she was convinced she had found proof, (before analyzing) that the other current theories were wrong. Her evidence was interesting, but a long way from convincing in that she seemed more concerned with proving them wrong and not proving her theory right.

    Analysis of a theory based on one location that has been interpreted and anthropomorphised (CO2-methane speculations) bothers me. Stick with the science!

    What also bothers me is that I rockhound for interesting minerals and fossils. Now, I’ve not been to the site where they’re digging, but every place where I’ve dug fossils and encountered the PT boundary, the layers following the PT boundary are completely void of visible fossils. When someone claims the global extinction took a very long time, I’d like to know why many of the fossil records show an abrupt transition. I’m in the states, so blaming the Siberian traps for sudden regional extinctions (I’ve encountered the PT boundary both in Eastern and Western USA) but a gradual one in the artic seems convoluted in assuming that was a global effect. What was it about the artic circle site that protected that seafloor?

  52. Note, on my previous post, it looks like an asteroid video but the conclusion goes straight to the trapps. The really interesting part is the timeline how how long it took to get to the die off point. One thing I would ask of people, as I’ve posted this on RealClimate. The issues that always gets pushed bask is the amount of co2 released over what period of time. Nobody makes it clear. I would suspect, if that were somehow made clear, it would give us the perfect proxy as to what amount and at what rate it would take for gas releases to impact the environment. The RealClimate folks didn’t seem interested in figuring that out.

  53. Going back to a graph of temp and CO2 based on GEOCARB III and C.R. Scotese (from )

    The great dying occurs at the end of a glacial epoch, the temps do get a few degrees about the non-glacial average, but “sizzling”. Hardly.

  54. Further note, if you want to “cut to the chase” go to the 44 minute mark on the video, they sum it all up from that point on the Traps.

  55. Err, sorry for all the posts on this. I keep going back and looking at it (it’s been a couple of years and I didn’t remember the order of things).

    Let me give a summation and the stunning outcome of the research shown in this documentary. The basic outcome is, due to the Siberian Traps opening up with contents size rifts and floods of lava and gig tons of co2 and sulfur, the earth warmed 5 degrees C which was enough to get the methane hydrates to melt and then warm the earth anther 5 c for a total of 10c warming. Well, this is basically what the AGW folks say is going to happen. Here’s the rub. With that release going on–and I speculate because I can’t find any annual rate estimates as to how much release was done by the traps on a year over year basis– it still took 40,000 years for the Earth to warm 5c. It then took another 35,000 years of methane release to move it up to 10c. This was the area I got attacked on RealClimate about. Nobody could pinpoint the amount of release yearly. There are many reports that say “giga tons” but, again, not over what period. The geological history proves the timeline, 40k for 5c, 75k to go to 10c but the argument keeps coming back to how much was released when.

    I truly feel that, if we can get the release rate identified, it will absolutely settle the argument. I could be very, very wrong; but I definitely suspect that the Traps released more gases annually than we will over centuries (meaning it would take us a million years or better to repeat the die off scenario).

    If anyone has time to figure out the release rate, we may have an answer.

  56. Mark Hladik says:
    February 8, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    Traps: 251 – 249 million years before present;
    Accepted date of Permo-Triassic boundary: 252.3 million years before present

    So what you are saying is that it was so bad the critters died out before the trap event happened so they did not have to go through it?;)

  57. Well then shouldn’t we stop $2.5 billion in funding for finding ways to combat climate change and instead fund finding ways to combat volcanoes? It will still flush money down a toilet but at least it will replace the entrenched government funded climate scientists with entrenched government funded geophysicists and the like. Maybe even mechanical engineers will benefit from such a changeover?

  58. From Kevin Angus on February 9, 2012 at 9:30 am:

    FYI: Peat does not become coal.

    Rainwater-fed peat as a precursor of coal
    R. S. Clymo (1987), published by the Geological Society of London.
    Abstract excerpts:
    “These peats may be analogous to those which formed the Permian coals of Australia.”
    “These tropical forest peats may be analogous to those which formed the Carboniferous coals.”

    http://www.colby.edu/~ragastal/Paleobotany/peatncoal.html

    “The accumulation of peat, the precursor to coal, occurs in settings where there is a high water-table.”

    Etc.

  59. Hell_Is_Like_Newark says:
    February 9, 2012 at 7:54 am
    “I have never accepted the idea that the Siberian traps caused:
    The world to warm (Volcanoes = SOx which means cooling)
    Were solely responsible for the mass extinction event.

    The theory that I favor is a major impact event which either caused or greatly enhanced the volcanic activity in Siberia via an antipodal effect

    http://www.newgeology.us/presentation35.html

    So where is the crater? Your guess is as good as mine. Theories include that it was long ago subducted via plate tectonics, or it may be off the coast of Australia or under the antarctic ice (Wilkes Land Crater).”

    I thought the crater was Chicxulub crater in the Yucatan. Your link did not work on my system. But I agree that the impact theory seems more probable and certainly more exciting (in retrospect, of course.) The real question of interest here, is of course, what caused the “traps”. Their magnatude is, indeed, impressive. All of the theorizing about what they caused is of little use since it is all guess work at best. One could also theorize that they occured so slowly that they had no impact whatsoever upon the climate at the time.

  60. Ian S says:
    February 8, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Agreed with Mike Bromley. Assertions of “runaway global warming” are in contradiction with temperature measurements from ice-cores. They pulled that one straight out of their @…

    While I don’t disagree with your basic evaluation, there really are no ice cores that old. The poles ave both been ice free a couple of times since then, and the continents have been through serious mashups as well.

  61. Kevin Angus says:
    February 9, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Everyone seems to have missed the point, COAL. Where did the COAL come from? at 500 million years there was not enough life around (or time) to create ‘Fossil Fuel’, COAL.
    Maybe Thomas Gold was right, at the least someone should ask the question; where did the COAL came from.
    FYI: Peat does not become coal.

    Kevin,
    The Carboniferous Period lasted from about 360 to 299 million years ago. The Permian Extinction (the Great Dying in the title] followed it. There is an enormous amount of fossil evidence for lots and lots of plants and animals from the Carboniferous, which was named that because of the abundant beds of coal, which in turn were becomingly increasingly important in European industry. Many of the really great examples of Paleozoic (ended by the Permian extinction) plants come from coal beds. BTW, peat does become coal. It just takes time, pressure, and a little heat. There are beds of coal of various grades from peat here in California that are too young to have ever met a dinosaur, let alone one of their predecessors.

  62. My theory is, prior to the extinction, CO2 levels were abnormally low (not as low as now, but low).

    This meant that the ability of photosynthesizing organisms to withstand any sort of adverse events – such as a sudden lowering of light levels, or, a sudden cooling – was compromised.

    Then, such an event happened, and photosynthesis crashed. The fungus went wild and CO2 levels then spiked way up. In other words, the rise in CO2 came after the intervening event, as a result of the die off.

  63. Just noting there are NO estimates of increased CO2 during or around the event on the order required to cause an extinction event. There is a lower concentration of C13 isotopes (and vegetation and CH4 favor the more common C12 isotope) but that is not direct evidence of higher CO2 or CH4. The vast majority of vegetation dying off could cause the C13 isotope to become less common by itself – vegetation die-off releases much more C12 isotope.

    CO2 rose about 15 Mys before the event (from the low points of the Carboniferous) to as much as 2,500 ppm but there are many other periods with CO2 this high or higher that are not associated with extinctions. Pangea at 265 Mya is generally thought to be the hottest period in Earth’s history at close to +10.0C while the extinction happened 13 Mys later when temperatures fell to about today’s level – with no real CO2 change at the event. The CO2 and CH4 proposition is in the imagination of the pro-AGW set only.

  64. Now See here Chaps.
    I knew 90% of the life on Earth, we used to hang out at the Pub, Friday lunchtimes.
    Now if they just walked to work and cut back on the black pudding and pipe smoke, they’d all still be here.
    I said to them, last time I saw them, you can’t be too careful with your health.
    Had to repeat it, on account of the hearing lost they all suffered, standing too close to fumeroles.
    Lament them not, for they were well informed.
    On the bright side, I now have bingo with the Coral’s on wednesdays, although i’m sure the Brain Coral cheats.

  65. Jim.G: I thought the crater was Chicxulub crater in the Yucatan.

    That was the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. The one for the Permian extinction was millions of years earlier.

  66. Temperature is proportional to average kinetic energy in a gas ,kinetic energy depends on half of the mass times the square of velocity,if the near surface density increases does that not imply that the surface temperature must rise with increasing surface pressure.We see that we have had greater atmospheric densities in the geological past does this not imply surface temperature was higher for this reason.

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