Claim: Earth’s Greatest Mass Extinction is a Warning to Us

Permian-Triassic boundary in shallow marine sediments, characterised by a significant sedimentation gap between the black shales of Permian and dolomites of Triassic age. This gap documents a globally recognized regression phase, probably linked to a period of a cold climate and glaciation.
© H. Bucher, Zürich

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

A paper published in Paleoworld worries that a repeat of the greatest mass extinction event in Earth’s history could be triggered by Anthropogenic CO2. But Cambridge Professor Peter Wadhams, our favourite sea ice alarmist, thinks the attempt to link the Permian extinction to modern events is a bit wild.

Earth’s worst-ever mass extinction of life holds ‘apocalyptic’ warning about climate change, say scientists

Runaway global warming saw the planet’s average temperature hit about double what it is today about 250 million years ago

Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent @montaukian Friday 24 March 2017 13:15 GMT

Researchers studying the largest-ever mass extinction in Earth’s history claim to have found evidence that it was caused by runaway global warming – and that the “apocalyptic” events of 250 million years ago could happen again.

About 90 per cent of all the living things on the planet were wiped out in the Permian mass extinction – described in a 2005 book called When Life Nearly Died – for reasons that have been long debated by scientists.

Now a team of researchers from Canada, Italy, Germany and the US say they have discovered what happened and that their findings have “an important lesson for humanity” in how we deal with current global warming.

According to a paper published in the journal  Palaeoworld, volcanic eruptions pumped large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air, causing average temperatures to rise by eight to 11°C.

Professor Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University, suggested a major methane pulse was possible.

However he said this would be “maybe not apocalyptic, but catastrophic”.

“If there were a large methane release, which is now possible because of the instability of the methane hydrates underneath the Arctic continental shelves, the off-shore waters, that could quite easily give rise to a very large pulse,” Professor Wadhams said.

However, Professor Wadhams criticised the title of the Palaeoworld paper, which was “Methane hydrate: Killer cause of Earth’s greatest mass extinction”.

“There’s a serious tendency these days to offer a breathless overkill on the importance of a discovery. The title of the paper is over the top,” he said.

Read more:

The abstract of the paper;

Methane Hydrate: Killer cause of Earth’s greatest mass extinction

Uwe Branda Nigel Blameya, Claudio Garbellib, Erika Griesshaberc, Renato Posenatod, Lucia Angiolinib, Karem Azmye, Enzo Farabegolif, Rosemarie Cameg

The cause for the end Permian mass extinction, the greatest challenge life on Earth faced in its geologic history, is still hotly debated by scientists. The most significant marker of this event is the negative δ13C shift and rebound recorded in marine carbonates with a duration ranging from 2000 to 19 000 years depending on localities and sedimentation rates. Leading causes for the event are Siberian trap volcanism and the emission of greenhouse gases with consequent global warming. Measurements of gases vaulted in calcite of end Permian brachiopods and whole rock document significant differences in normal atmospheric equilibrium concentration in gases between modern and end Permian seawaters. The gas composition of the end Permian brachiopod-inclusions reflects dramatically higher seawater carbon dioxide and methane contents leading up to the biotic event. Initial global warming of 8–11 °C sourced by isotopically light carbon dioxide from volcanic emissions triggered the release of isotopically lighter methane from permafrost and shelf sediment methane hydrates. Consequently, the huge quantities of methane emitted into the atmosphere and the oceans accelerated global warming and marked the negative δ13C spike observed in marine carbonates, documenting the onset of the mass extinction period. The rapidity of the methane hydrate emission lasting from several years to thousands of years was tempered by the equally rapid oxidation of the atmospheric and oceanic methane that gradually reduced its warming potential but not before global warming had reached levels lethal to most life on land and in the oceans. Based on measurements of gases trapped in biogenic and abiogenic calcite, the release of methane (of ∼3–14% of total C stored) from permafrost and shelf sediment methane hydrate is deemed the ultimate source and cause for the dramatic life-changing global warming (GMAT > 34 °C) and oceanic negative-carbon isotope excursion observed at the end Permian. Global warming triggered by the massive release of carbon dioxide may be catastrophic, but the release of methane from hydrate may be apocalyptic. The end Permian holds an important lesson for humanity regarding the issue it faces today with greenhouse gas emissions, global warming, and climate change.

Read more (Paywalled):

One theory for the cause of the Permian Extinction Event is the eruption of the Siberian Traps, a gigantic million year long volcanic eruption which covered 770,000 square miles of Siberia in 100s of thousands of cubic miles of flood basalt lava.

I know human emissions produce the occasional impressive smoke haze, but I think I’ll go with Professor Wadhams on this one. It does seem a little wild to compare what we do to the atmosphere, to a colossal volcanic eruption which lasted a million years.

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March 26, 2017 10:03 pm

After witnessing near 100% of his prognostications fail miserably, perhaps Waddy has turned over a new leaf and has decided to play his cards a little closer to his chest.

Reply to  karabar
March 27, 2017 5:11 am

If he’s always wrong, that makes me worry in this case.

george e. smith
Reply to  commieBob
March 27, 2017 8:18 am

Just think, some geologist of the future is going to discover a layer akin to that Permian-Triassic sedimentation layer, and in it he will find all of our 21st century glassified nuclear waste materials, still suitably cold, radiatively.


Rob Dawg
March 26, 2017 10:04 pm

Runaway global warming saw the planet’s average temperature hit about double what it is today about 250 million years ago

560 degrees Kelvin? I don’t think so.

Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 27, 2017 1:45 am

Indeed, nothing but the usual speculative mental wanderings presents as scientifici “findings”.

The rapidity of the methane hydrate emission lasting from several years to thousands of years was tempered by the equally rapid oxidation of the atmospheric and oceanic methane that gradually reduced its warming potential but not before global warming had reached levels lethal to most life on land and in the oceans.

So is it years or thousands of years and if you have such massive uncertainties how do you know whether the reduction was “equally rapid”.

If fact the data, even if they are interpreting it correctly ( which is unlikely ), does not have the resolution to say whether is was years or kyears but they know that methane oxides rapidly, so they have invent the rest for their speculative BS to work.

Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 27, 2017 1:49 am

Now a team of researchers from Canada, Italy, Germany and the US say

Now let me guess, this has to be damned potty Potsdam Institute of Climate BS.

Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 27, 2017 1:58 am

Note the caption on the photo illustrating this post:

Permian-Triassic boundary in shallow marine sediments, characterised by a significant sedimentation gap between the black shales of Permian and dolomites of Triassic age. This gap documents a globally recognized regression phase, probably linked to a period of a cold climate and glaciation .

So apparently the temperature proxies for this period can not tell the difference between glaciation and MGT>34 deg C. That make the whole discussion meaningless.

Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 27, 2017 2:51 am

The black shale was caused by massive ocean anoxic event, that could have something to do with, plus SO2 causing sulphuric acid rain killing off plant life might have something to do with it.

Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 27, 2017 3:53 am

Well said, Rob Dawg!

The UK Daily Telegraph (or maybe it was the Met Office) were at a week or two ago with the “hottest day of the year so far” rubbish (it’s Spring, FFS, why wouldn’t it be?) claiming the temperature was “twice the normal for March!

Please, Lord, deliver us from scientific illiterates pontificating on science!

Reply to  Newminster
March 27, 2017 8:49 pm

@ newminster, the same here in Canada. There was a nice a spring day ( 14 c) with “unprecedented” hail and a T storm !!! Yes one roll of thunder and it is a “storm” ” FFS unbelievable!

BTW If anyone in Oz can update us on Cyclone Debbie ? Are the winds truly hitting 226 kms ? On BBC the word is….

Reply to  Newminster
March 28, 2017 7:10 pm

Sorry to beat a dead horse, but could someone please tell me what the “normal” temperature should be. Is now or ever has been?

Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 27, 2017 7:44 am

But the consensus cook said it was double, so we must believe. In the end, they had good professor as an expert so they couldn’t have made a mistake of that proportion. /sarc

This is basically the reason I believe no nothing based it being printed in a paper with a reputation. They all have a reputation, and it is not a good one. Like, if you know any subject thorouhly, chances are high you spot a grave mistake like that. If you do not know the subject, you just don’t spot the mistakes.

george e. smith
Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 27, 2017 8:22 am

Well there aren’t any degrees Kelvin.

There is a kelvin, and its plural would be kelvins.

Degrees is for other arbitrary temperature scales like Celsius, or Fahrenheit, that are just made up.

There are no real negative Temperatures. Zero kelvin is the bottom of the Temperature scale.


Paul Blase
Reply to  george e. smith
March 27, 2017 10:39 pm

In reality, most people use “degrees” no matter what the scale is. Force of habit.

Mike Restin
Reply to  george e. smith
March 28, 2017 5:32 am

Paul, I believe it’s not a force of habit, actually it’s forced ignorance by schools.
The less the sheeple understand, the better.

george e. smith
Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 27, 2017 8:31 am

The Temperature in downtown Sunnyvale , CA in any ordinary week, or even 24 hour day, will vary over that interval by more than the global average Temperature has changed in the last 650 million years. It has never been outside the bounds of 12-24 deg. C

We get double that change diurnally on a regular basis.

But then, the global average Temperature is of no possible interest to anybody; it has never been observed (when it occurs), and mostly the Temperatures over the globe are never at that average value, anywhere you want to go. And just how would you recognize that it was the global average Temperature if you saw it??


Gregory J Suhr
Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 27, 2017 8:55 am

Well..I’ve never worried much about Global Warming since the temperature where I live typically varies about 20 degrees F every day…and 100 degrees F from summer to winter….BUT…..560 degrees Kelvin….THAT…would bother me. It would be awfully hard to find a frozen Margarita under those conditions.

Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 27, 2017 9:35 am

Indeed, large volcanic eruptions pump large amounts of co2 into the atmosphere. Perhaps they could tell us why when Mt. Pinatubo went, co2 levels ppm per year dropped by half. We stopped producing co2 because the global temperature fell ? Where was the increase in co2 ? I know we stopped driving, stopped producing stuff, turned off the furnaces, and those evil air conditioning units to enjoy the blessings of a return to a fridged past lala land. Maybe it was Henry’s law.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 27, 2017 1:28 pm

“There’s a serious tendency these days to offer a breathless overkill on the importance of a discovery. The title of the paper is over the top,” he said.

…And that is a tactic which only the most elite among climate scientists are allowed to exercise?

Reply to  Rob Dawg
March 27, 2017 4:50 pm

“560 degrees Kelvin? I don’t think so.”

That’s a little bit on the high side.

Mark - Helsinki
March 26, 2017 10:17 pm

Nonsense, about then there was also the Emeishan traps around that time, the volumes of heat coming from volcanism at that time provided plenty of heat, you dont need ghgs to warm things, lots of ash gas chemical changes and a LOT of heat, a cooker no less. CO2? ugh UGH

March 26, 2017 10:18 pm

the greatest mass extinction event in Earth’s history could be triggered by LACK OF Anthropogenic CO2.

Fixed !!

Leonard Lane
Reply to  AndyG55
March 26, 2017 10:37 pm

Andy, thanks your fix is great.

Reply to  AndyG55
March 27, 2017 3:48 am


Mickey Reno
Reply to  AndyG55
March 27, 2017 6:42 am

…. or caused by a profound cold period caused by volcanic aerosols.

March 26, 2017 10:28 pm

Every other large volcanic eruption has caused the earth to cool.

Ian Magness
Reply to  mikebartnz
March 26, 2017 10:53 pm

Yes Mike,
I understood that too. Why the reversal in effect this time?

Reply to  Ian Magness
March 26, 2017 11:00 pm

Because these events lacked the necessary aerosols /sarc

Reply to  Ian Magness
March 27, 2017 1:48 am

Yes, these were pure CO2 volcanoes, not like the ones we know today.


Reply to  mikebartnz
March 27, 2017 12:34 am

Every other large volcanic eruption has caused the earth to cool.?
Not true. most volcanic eruptions are under the sea and most of those do not introduce cooling aerosols into the air.Undersea volcanic activity causes warming of the water and more GHG in the atmosphere,mainly water, some CO2.

george e. smith
Reply to  mikebartnz
March 27, 2017 8:35 am

CO2 is almost as smart as a Thermos flask.

It keeps the hot food hot, and it keeps the cold food cold.

And nobody tells it which is which.


Reply to  mikebartnz
March 27, 2017 8:54 pm

Thanks Forrest, can we from now on just call it a MM? It just might make people ask , “What is a MM” ? Your answer could make them think a bit.

March 26, 2017 11:21 pm

Apologies for going O/T but I tried posting this on ‘tips and notes’ twice the other day and both comment failed to appear. (Not sure if it’s due to one link being to a Guard ean article?)
‘US scientists launch world’s biggest solar geoengineering study’
“US scientists are set to send aerosol injections 20km up into the earth’s stratosphere in the world’s biggest solar geoengineering programme to date, to study the potential of a future tech-fix for global warming. The $20m (£16m) Harvard University project will launch within weeks and aims to establish whether the technology can safely simulate the atmospheric cooling effects of a volcanic eruption, if a last ditch bid to halt climate change is one day needed.
Scientists hope to complete two small-scale dispersals of first water and then calcium carbonate particles by 2022. Future tests could involve seeding the sky with aluminium oxide – or even diamonds. “This is not the first or the only university study,” said Gernot Wagner, the project’s co-founder, “but it is most certainly the largest, and the most comprehensive.”
Janos Pasztor, Ban Ki-moon’s assistant climate chief at the UN who now leads a geoengineering governance initiative, said that the Harvard scientists would only disperse minimal amounts of compounds in their tests, under strict university controls. The real issue here is something much more challenging,” he said “What does moving experimentation from the lab into the atmosphere mean for the overall path towards eventual deployment?”
Geoengineering advocates stress that any attempt at a solar tech fix is years away and should be viewed as a compliment to – not a substitute for – aggressive emissions reductions action.
But the Harvard team, in a promotional video for the project, suggest a redirection of one percent of current climate mitigation funds to geoengineering research, and argue that the planet could be covered with a solar shield for as little as $10bn a year.
Some senior UN climate scientists view such developments with alarm, fearing a cash drain from proven mitigation technologies such as wind and solar energy, to ones carrying the potential for unintended disasters.
Kevin Trenberth, a lead author for the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change, said that despair at sluggish climate action, and the rise of Donald Trump were feeding the current tech trend. But solar geoengineering is not the answer,” he said. “Cutting incoming solar radiation affects the weather and hydrological cycle. It promotes drought. It destabilizes things and could cause wars. The side effects are many and our models are just not good enough to predict the outcomes” ……”
Below is a the link to MIT article:

Lance Wallace
March 26, 2017 11:23 pm


Do please try to keep up! This paper was published last December, and just 3 months later came a paper showing the P-T extinction event was likely due to 89,000 years of cold preceding the hot years. Even the picture illustrating your post actually comes from this later paper (the vein comes from that 89,000 year period), and Anthony ran a story on it on March 6.

Tom Harley
Reply to  Eric Worrall
March 27, 2017 12:40 am

A new paper on Cretacious footprints and trackways in Australia, out today. Several new species:

Reply to  Eric Worrall
March 27, 2017 2:10 am

And it can provide grants and salaries for people who would otherwise be unemployable!

old construction worker
Reply to  Eric Worrall
March 27, 2017 5:14 am

“but CO2 is magic” Hi My Name is Big Al. I have a home heating and cooling system based on CO2 concentration pumped into your home. I can show you how it works in my (not V & V) computer model.

george e. smith
Reply to  Eric Worrall
March 27, 2017 8:38 am

Well Andrew; providing them with grants does not alter the basic truth that they still ARE unemployable !


March 26, 2017 11:30 pm

I sense that climate science is ratcheting up the alarm factor in the trump era.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  chaamjamal
March 27, 2017 1:47 pm

Quite obviously. However, they are starting to look ridiculous to common-sense folks who are more perceptive than the MSM would prefer them to be.

March 26, 2017 11:41 pm

So as long as we don’t let Uber deliver asteroids we’re ok?

Reply to  prjindigo
March 27, 2017 12:18 am

I use Uber. If they are delivering the asteroids, we’re perfectly safe – they have their own system now that is actually worse than Google. Mars, on the other hand…

george e. smith
Reply to  Writing Observer
March 27, 2017 8:40 am

I was waiting outside the local Catholic Church waiting to collect my MIL and bring her home, and some maroon came up to me and asked if I was oober.

I said I had no idea who the hell oober was, but I’m not him.


george e. smith
Reply to  Writing Observer
March 27, 2017 8:44 am

Anybody who would jump into the car of a complete stranger, and imagine it is safe to do so, is a possible model for the next mass extinction.

I would rather crawl on my hands and knees over broken glass, in a howling blizzard, up hill (both ways) before I would get into the car of a complete stranger; OR let a complete stranger get into MY car.


Reply to  george e. smith
March 27, 2017 3:49 pm

If I didn’t live in an open-carry State, I would agree completely.

Plus, I am male – and when I am using Uber, the Marine son is with me. So a tad less likely to have a problem than an unarmed 90 pound solo female… (Although, ahem, those aren’t always as unarmed as you might think at first glance.)

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Writing Observer
March 27, 2017 2:56 pm

You must be an old curmudgeon like me! Why does every generation think that somehow human nature has suddenly changed for the better starting with them?

Steve Case
March 26, 2017 11:41 pm

The methane nonsense really needs to be exposed. A day or two ago “Underground Methane Bubbles are about to Explode” was in the news. Any casual internet search on methane will turn up the “Methane is Umpteen times more potent than CO2” B.S. And policy makers around the world are writing regulations based on this crap.

The question of how much will the temperature go up for a given increase in methane really needs to be answered. In general terms, it’s not very much and it will take a long time to get there.

Methane is about 1850 ppb, of the atmosphere and it going up about 6 or 7 ppb/yr.

It will take nearly 300 years to double its concentration resulting in about a 0.2 K temperature increase.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Steve Case
March 26, 2017 11:54 pm

“Steve Case March 26, 2017 at 11:41 pm

Methane is about 1850 ppb, of the atmosphere and it going up about 6 or 7 ppb/yr.”

It’s actually fairly static, even dropping slightly. Either way, we’d have to remove all termites on this rock if we want to significantly reduce CH4 emissions. BTW, in a discussion with someone who believed CH4 was a problem a few years ago stated that CH4 had 4 “carbons”. Ignorance is bliss I guess!

george e. smith
Reply to  Steve Case
March 27, 2017 8:46 am

Methane is a good source of chemical stored heat energy; so if we get enough of it, we can just burn it up.


Reply to  Steve Case
March 28, 2017 7:22 pm

Utter crap. Exactly. I figure that since there is no scientific evidence that CO2 causes anything like large global warming, “umpteen times” zero is still ZERO!

Peter Foster
March 27, 2017 12:00 am

CO2 does not fit the bill. The extinctions did not happen at 252 mya, that was when they ended. That was when the rate of new species started to exceed the rate of extinction. the Permian extinctions started some 15 million years before 252 mya. What they do correlate with is declining O2 which went from 35% to 15% but given that respiratory systems were far more primitive then the effect was devastating.The decline in O2 caused the oceans to become anoxic and allowed sulpher bacteria to predominate producing H2S which killed most marine organisms.
O2 in the atmosphere is a function of the rate of production by photosynthesis versus the rate of oxidation by minerals such as pyrite. The melting of ice from the ice age exposed minerals that reacted with oxygen and removed it faster that plants could replace it. This happened because plant growth was inhibited by inadequate CO2. The extinctions stopped when CO2 rose through 1600ppm due to the Siberian traps volcanoes coupled with decomposition.

The Deplorable Vlad the Impaler
Reply to  Peter Foster
March 27, 2017 6:15 am

Indeed, you are correct. Extinction was taking place for quite a while before the final event, now listed by the ICS (International Commission on Stratigraphy) as 252.17 ma, + or – 0.03 ma. Further, the Siberian event was just getting started at about 252.50 (+ or -), and continued until 248 ma, four million years into the Triassic.

Obviously, it was not one continuous eruption for four million years, but a series of eruptions with pulses of activity, and times of dormancy.

Anthony graciously posted an essay of mine on this same topic in 2012, showing that the terminal extinction event took place before most of the diabase was emplaced. Others have pointed out that whatever carbon dioxide was contributed to the atmosphere, a corresponding amount of sulphur compounds were also likely present, and aerosols such as these tend to cause more cooling than not.

There is also the issue of the Araganty impact, and the Wilkesland structure, both dating to the end Permian. While maybe not the proximate cause, could they have been another nail in the coffin for those Paleozoic genera?

The Deplorable Vlad the Impaler
Reply to  The Deplorable Vlad the Impaler
March 27, 2017 5:22 pm

Hi ptolemy2,

My apologies: I mis-typed again! It should have been ‘diabasic’ not diabase, although some of the volume of rock was emplaced subsurface.

Glossary of Geology (4th Ed; Jackson, J. A. ed.): “Igneous texture characterized by dominant lath-shaped plagioclase grains and interstitial, anhedral pyroxene”

If you can imagine Hawaii-type lava, a little lighter in color (plagioclase), and a little more viscous (when molten), then you have the diabasic-textured rocks found in Siberia. The term originally referred to European sills pre-dating the Tertiary Period (now called Paleogene), and was a fairly common term in my undergrad days. Of late, it has fallen into obsolescence (like me) and is more commonly referred to as basaltic, but it has higher silica content (hence the higher viscosity) than the more common Hawaii-type basalts.

Hope that answers your question; I’d be happy to provide more detail if you like.

I think it is good that we bat around different ideas, and maybe look for any piece of the puzzle regarding mass extinction(s) or large extinctions. As with most things, I think there is often many factors acting either in concert with each other, or in opposition to each other, and things see-saw back and forth. On a geological scale, a human lifetime (or even the whole of recorded human history) is but an eye-blink, if even that. The terminal Permian extinction likely played out over multi-thousands of years; even something as fast as two thousand years would be indistinguishable at this time, 252 million years after the event itself.

There are parallels between the P-T event, and the Cretaceous-Tertiary (“Kretaceous-Paleogene”) event ( the letter “K” being the standard symbol for Cretaceous-age strata on geological maps). The Permian extinction was not a single, isolated event (prior to the terminal event itself), but was building up to a crescendo culminating at the 252.17 event. Trilobites, for example, a highly successful group in lower Paleozoic strata, finally checked out in the Mid-Permian. Numerous other species and genera were losing the evolutionary battle to more advanced life forms, so the final nail in the coffin was apparently dramatic and sudden (geologically), and of indeterminate cause.

When the Chixulub impact happened, there were strong signs of decline among the Dinosauria; fewer species, less diversity, higher levels of specialization (loss of adaptation?), and so forth … … The impact was just a culmination of a process that was likely already underway. Terrestrial and marine species alike went extinct in close temporal proximity, once the impact occurred, but the prior declines in the populations were unmistakable. Ammonites form much of the time-scale dating of events in the Mesozoic, but they vanished just a few hundred thousand years before Chixulub (66.4 ma for ammonites, and 66.0 ma for the end of the Cretaceous itself), not unlike trilobites in the Paleozoic).

Whether there is some ‘organized chaos’ taking place out there is not something I am in a position to comment upon. You could very well be right; with any luck we’ll gather more and more data and observations, and maybe some day be able to come to a reasonable conclusion about what happened at each of the well-known and extensive extinctions. I expect I’ll be extinct myself, so it will be up to you and others to carry on the good fight.

Reply to  The Deplorable Vlad the Impaler
March 28, 2017 5:43 am

Thanks Vlad! Your comments and others here could teach a student more about the PT extinction than probably many whole undergraduate courses.

By chaos I was not referring to the physical catastrophes causing extinctions, but in the network of biological-ecological interactions between species which mean that there will not be equal responses to (hypothetically) equal perturbations. Below for instance, tty makes the point that the volcanism associated with the end Permian, was not that exceptional.

The Deplorable Vlad the Impaler
Reply to  The Deplorable Vlad the Impaler
March 28, 2017 7:10 am

Couldn’t agree with you more. There are just too many factors (as there are in climate and the global climate system) for “one” single thing to be the identifiable ’cause’. The K-T event is largely exceptional; there we can tie-in an event as the proximate cause.

It is human nature to try to boil everything down to one, single, item as “THE cause”. The current prime failing of what is called “climate science” is trying desperately to tie carbon dioxide as the single, all-encompassing ’cause’ for climate change to anything and everything. As we know, a coupled, non-linear dynamic system is not subject to the whims of a ‘single’ cause. I believe we will find that the Permian terminal event was a combination of things, some random factors that came to a head within a short period of time.

May we all be willing to accept new data as it becomes available!

Reply to  Peter Foster
March 27, 2017 2:34 pm

Very illuminating, so the Siberian trap flood basalt instead of devastating life, rescued it from the end Permian extinction event.

Just as anthropogenic CO2 atmospheric enrichment spared the biosphere from the end-Pleistocene mass extinction which otherwise would have followed from the CO2 starvation resulting from silicate weathering from repeated glacial-interglacial cycles of glacier advance and retreat.

Do you have a relative degree called Grant, byw?

Lars P.
Reply to  Peter Foster
March 27, 2017 2:48 pm

“CO2 does not fit the bill.”
What you say does make sense and it is very interesting to understand, however I fear O2 and H2S do not bring grants the way CO2 does. So does CO2 fit the bill? I fear yes…

Johann Wundersamer
March 27, 2017 12:36 am

Runaway global warming saw the planet’s average temperature hit about double what it is today about 250 million years ago.

Leading causes for the event are Siberian trap volcanism and the emission of greenhouse gases with consequent global warming.

Again the change of cause and effect – undistinguishable what came first, vulcanic eruptions or methane concentration change

in sediments from 250 Million years ago.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Johann Wundersamer
March 27, 2017 12:40 am

Again the change of cause and effect – undistinguishable what came first, vulcanic eruptions or methane concentration change

in sediments from 250 Million years ago.


Again the change of cause and effect – undistinguishable what came first, methane concentration change or temperature change.

in sediments from 250 Million years ago.

Reply to  Johann Wundersamer
March 27, 2017 1:39 am

‘indistinguishable’…and ‘vulcanism’ is US usage. ‘volcanism’ more common in other parts of the english speaking world

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Johann Wundersamer
March 27, 2017 3:31 am

See you got me. Thanks

george e. smith
Reply to  Johann Wundersamer
March 27, 2017 8:50 am

Vulcanism, is not American either, except as a Star Trek based religion. We understand volcanism as well as the British.


March 27, 2017 12:46 am

Yes. Lets look at some data.

We’re talking about the Permian, when Earth went from Ice Age to Hot House, with a slight overshoot. About a 16-17 degree Celsius change (I’m eye balling it here). Carbon Dioxide lagged a bit, and didn’t exceed 2,000 ppm, which it finally exceeded during the Jurassic. But it did stay above 1,000 ppm for the 100 million years or so. And isn’t 450 ppm supposed to be the threshold of runaway greenhouse warming, leading irreversibly to Venus like conditions?

Reply to  LarryD
March 27, 2017 2:35 am

Larry, (Venus like conditions (tongue in cheek, I am sure)) was where my concern for the planet gave way to contempt for those who believe climate change is all mankind’s doing. Years ago I Googled “surface temperature of Venus”. I found out that it is 460 Celsius, frightening, but then I discovered that its CO2 atmosphere has the same pressure as an ocean would at a depth of 10 miles. Even with all the CO2 in solution in all the world’s oceans becoming insolvent was this scenario likely to happen. The other claim at the time was that limestone and other calcium carbonate rocks would break down: Ca(CO)3 + heat = CaO +CO2. Since this can only occur at 750 Celsius, this was highly unlikely to happen too. Unfortunately since then the AGW movement has tried to con us with more believable “science”. All it does though is demonstrate the lack of basic scientific knowledge of the majority of the people in the world.

Reply to  andrewmharding
March 27, 2017 3:59 am

Many people think Venus is a young planet like Earth in its early life. It’s the only planet turning in a different direction and what is important, slowing down.

Reply to  andrewmharding
March 27, 2017 4:15 am

Venus is closer to the sun than the Earth, and it is also natural that there are tipping points in her history that have led to such a chemical composition of the atmosphere as today. The same is true for Mars. He is much more remote, and therefore temperature fluctuations, which can represent a tipping point in atmospheric history can occur. So I would say: lucky that we live on earth. And all terraforming fantasies for Venus and Mars are loaded with risks. Because both planets are located in the outermost third of the habitable zone, the earth in the middle third.

Reply to  andrewmharding
March 27, 2017 5:16 am

the the surface of Venus is likely super-critical CO2. The lapse rate on Venus explains the surface temperatures. Convection results in Potential Energy at altitude and Kinetic Energy at the surface. However, only Kinetic Energy is part of temperature. Thus, the atmosphere is warm at the surface (KE) and cold at altitude (PE). The temperature gradient is determined by the gravitational acceleration of Venus, not by CO2 back radiation.

gravitational acceleration on Venus = 8.9 m/s
dry air lapse rate on Venus = 8.9 C/km

gravitational acceleration on Earth = 9.8 m/s
dry air lapse rate on Earth = 9.8 C/km

Anyone notice a pattern here? Where is CO2 in any of this? You cannot change the surface temperature without changing the height of the convecting portion of the atmosphere.

Reply to  andrewmharding
March 27, 2017 5:23 am

It’s the only planet turning in a different direction and what is important, slowing down.
Venus always shows the same face to Earth at closest approach. Coincidence? Not likely. Like the Moon, The rotation of Venus is locked to Earth. The effect of a very small force applied in phase, a few billion times with no significant friction.

Reply to  LarryD
March 27, 2017 3:54 am

So it saved life on Earth. Without this event humans may never have existed. The planet would have run out of CO2 long before.

Neal A Brown
Reply to  Robertvd
March 27, 2017 1:27 pm

Hey Robertvd & anybody else; didn’t you notice that ferdberple has acceleration in m/s instead of m/s^2?

Peta from Cumbria, now Newark
March 27, 2017 1:23 am

They’re like children with a new toy, CO2 in this case, and it is (currently) the most fantastic and wondrous thing they’ve ever had.
Lets try not to just knock them for that.
Go deeper – ask why such behaviour.

March 27, 2017 1:25 am

CO2 induced mayhem is just about the only politically correct source of catastrophe, given that academia is still in the grips of uniformitarianism dogma.

March 27, 2017 2:18 am

Volcanic eruptions and no particulates or aerosols?

Wadhams, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University, suggested a major methane pulse was possible.

So is winning the lottery

March 27, 2017 2:35 am

The previous interglacial period was warmer than this one with more ice cap melting and higher sea levels yet no climate catastrophy caused by adding methane to the atmosphere ever happened. There is also plenty of scientific reasoning to support the idea that the climate sensivity of CO2 is really zero.

Patrick MJD
March 27, 2017 2:37 am

“Runaway global warming…”

Not experienced on this rock in the entire geological record known to science.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Patrick MJD
March 27, 2017 2:02 pm

Well, maybe momentarily, after the collision of a large bolide and terra firma.

March 27, 2017 3:31 am

Doubling today’s average surface temperature would result in an average global temperature of 588.83 degrees F. A surface temperature that high would have caused the oceans to boil away causing the Earth’s surface to heat even more because the surface pressure would be greater than that on Venus. If this had actually happened all live on Earth would have been extinguished but apparently such never happened.

Reply to  willhaas
March 27, 2017 1:15 pm

Apparently, but maybe it did. Can you say ‘matrix?’

March 27, 2017 3:47 am

Anyone noticed how small this planet is. Why could this not have been triggered by something extraterrestrial like the Sun or a close encounter with another planet. Anybody thinks our Solar system is a stable space .

March 27, 2017 5:20 am

Just a shameless revisionist fairytale. Who will believe that carbon dioxide did it if the alternative is a volcanic eruption lasting a million years and covering millions of square miles with lava.

March 27, 2017 5:54 am

The bigger question is what caused a volcanic eruption lasting a million years that covered millions of square miles with lava?

Alan McIntire
March 27, 2017 6:10 am

There was also drastic warming during the Eocene. THAT warming led to the spread of tropical jungles nearly to the poles, and to the proliferation of mammal life, like Perissodactyls(odd-toed ungulates, such as horses and tapirs), ,artiodactyls (even-toed ungulates, such as deer and pigs), bats, and primates all trace their origins to the Eocene.

I think Peter Foster posting earlier on changes in CO2 has it right. Birds, and presumably their dinosaur relatives, have a much more efficient lung system than we do. They probably developed their more efficient breathing system during that period of lower oxygen levels.

March 27, 2017 6:25 am

Ironic that one of the author’s last name is “Blameya”.

If ya blame me I’ll blame ya right back.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Caleb
March 27, 2017 2:09 pm

Do ya blame the schoolkids teasings for a fixation about mass-extinction?

March 27, 2017 6:38 am

The Permian event was a colossal blow, but Earth seems like one of those round-bottomed dolls that bound back upright when you punch them. I don’t think Earth really has a “tipping point”. If a major Permian eruption of a million years can’t knock it flat, what hope have 250 trillion termites? And if 250 million termites can’t shake the planet, do I think I can rattle things by screwing in a curly light bulb?

If the Creator wants to un-create His creation, he’ll just search through his marbles bag for the right sized asteroid, flick it at us, and that will be that. Hopefully, if He does it, He’ll do it just-before, and not just-after, I pay my taxes.

Reply to  Caleb
March 27, 2017 11:45 am

Nice one Caleb!

March 27, 2017 6:51 am

Here’s why… I’m not conceded if somehow we see an onset of a Triassic-Permian event.

Because we’re now “highly technological”.

If shît gets bad, we can leave.
If shît starts to really spiral, we can “fix it” thru scrubbing.

Don’t tell me that humanity couldn’t plant billions or even trillions of trees; we certainly have spent considerable energy and (mostly) manly toil cutting ’em down. Yep, we could plant more than we ever chopped into toothpicks. For sure.

Don’t tell me that humanity couldn’t fertilize the vast sterile ocean with FeSO₄ (iron sulfate) and suck up way more CO₂ that we are emitting. WAY more. Enough if we are really enthusiastic that we could also easily suck CO₂ down to the 280 ppm civilization started with, if prudence leaves the stage of right reason.

And don’t tell me that (for an instance) we were to become sufficiently motivated … we couldn’t gird the planet with superconducting power grids, to move a nearly ridiculous amount of solar power (and nuclear!) around the planet, where needed, from where generated. We (popularly) pine over needing to fix the “solar storage problem”. Yes, it is partially so. But the best fix is not to worry so much, use nuclear at 70% plate production, let it provide its own backfill to the caprice of solar and wind.

This is not a hard problem; but it does require taking action that has become mind-bogglingly pin-headed in not “doing stuff” because it offends the sensibilities of the least critically quantitative group of pseudo-scientists and fluffy-centric politicians and so called educators ever. Fertilize Ocean. Go all-in France-style with nuclear. Sure, pound in solar/wind operations where the sun is bright and the wind is strong. And then take the environmentalists, put ’em in work-gangs, and go plant billions of trees. They can retire, finally, at cushy desk jobs once they’ve invested their youth planting trees. The Aborists.

Just saying.
Needed to rant.

March 27, 2017 6:52 am

(#conceded# = concerned) … its still 6 am here…

Smart Rock
March 27, 2017 7:16 am

Couple of things about the Siberian traps (read them years ago so can’t find references)

They were erupted onto (and intruded into) an existing sedimentary sequence including coal, which apparently burned very extensively (CO2!! save us!!) and gypsum evaporites, which introduced loads of sulphur into the magma, (leading to the formation of the rich Norils’k nickel-copper-platinum-palladium deposits) but also discharging SO2 into the atmosphere (SO2!! aerosols!! save us!!).

Climate change orthodoxy therefore says there was simultaneous warming and cooling. Perhaps one or the other was dominant, so take your pick.

Catastrophic release of methane from polar seas and permafrost. It’s the wild card they keep up their sleeve to bring out when CO2 alone isn’t enough for the job. It’s just around the corner if we don’t mend our ways.

Massive eruptions of basaltic lava seem to be fairly common in the earth’s history. So if you’ve got an extinction to explain, you can usually find one ready to hand. E.g. the Deccan Traps at the K-T boundary.

Reply to  Smart Rock
March 27, 2017 9:36 am

I think we may be missing half of the discussion. Many of these large thousand-year eruptive events are a result of large asteroid impacts. Evidence of one or more large impacts may be found in the area of the Siberian Tuffe. A large asteroid impact goes a long way to explain the extinction-level atmospheric events that may have been present at that time.

Jim G1
March 27, 2017 8:07 am

I love “real scientists”. Unlike we engineers who build things, they can take some minimal observations and invent shit like climate change and dark matter, neither of which anyone can prove in the real world. If engineers worked in the same way we would still all be living in caves as all of our buildings and bridges would fall down before they are even completed. But then we are not “real scientists”.

J Mac
Reply to  Jim G1
March 27, 2017 9:14 am

Spot On, Jim!
‘Imagining’ tabloid disasters is much more difficult than designing and building the everyday marvels of our modern world. /s

Expect to see Paleoworld right next to ‘Scientific America’ in the tabloid racks at the supermarket check out stands soon!

Reply to  Jim G1
March 27, 2017 1:21 pm

You forgot the Big Bang! The king of all desk jockey, empirically null science.

Reply to  Jim G1
March 27, 2017 11:51 pm

Hi Jim,

the only real difference between a “Engineer” and a “Scientist” is that Engineers are actually accountable for the results they produce (and liable in case something goes wrong, depending on where you live :-).

and the results are generally useful in the real world,

Alan McIntire
Reply to  Jim G1
March 28, 2017 5:54 am

That reminds me of a Mark Twain quite
“There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such trifling investment of facts”.� Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi

March 27, 2017 9:18 am

According to, the Siberian events are not impressive in either volume or duration by Phanerozoic standards. Approximately .66m cubic kilometers per year over 7 million years. For comparison, the Mesozoic events averaged 2m cubic kilometers per year over 50 million years with no major extinctions.

Reply to  gymnosperm
March 27, 2017 12:33 pm

The size of an extinction need not correlate with the size of the event that caused it. In fact, large extinctions can – in principle – happen with little or no external perturbation.

This is the conclusion reached by considering an ecosystem such as the world 🌎 as a chaotic network. In his excellent book “Deep Simplicity”, John Gribben showed that a multitude of species linked in a chaotic network can respond highly variably to extinction of one or two species. In some cases no further extinctions occur. Sometimes one extinction could trigger a series of extinctions. The “trademark” of a chaotic/nonlinear system is the appearance of log-log distribution of the magnitude of events. Small events very common, big events rare, very big events exceedingly rare according to a straight line relationship when both axes are log.

Species extinctions could be like this if ecosystems were chaotic networks. The same magnitude of perturbation might cause either one or two extinctions, or a hundred, or ten thousand. The sensitivity of the ecosystem might vary with system parameters such as the slowly changing continental configuration.

Thus my suspicion is that the earth has during the Phanerozoic (half billion year history of multicellular life) been subjected to hundreds of extinction-causing catastrophes. But the extent of mass extinctions is not necessarily in proportion to the size of the perturbing events. The biggest extinctions may have been caused by perturbations that were not exceptional. The chaotic network paradigm even allows a large, or even mass extinction, to result spontaneously from no perturbation at all.

Reply to  gymnosperm
March 27, 2017 1:33 pm


The size of an extinction event does not necessarily correlate with the magnitude of a catastrophic impact on earth’s ecosystem. That is a conclusion from considering a multitude of species in an ecosystem as a chaotic network.

John Gribben, in his excellent book “Deep Simplicity”, showed that if living species in an ecosystem operate as a chaotic network, then extinction events will follow a characteristic log-log relationship. Very frequent small extinctions, rare large extinction events and exceedingly rare mass extinctions. A plot of the log of the scale of an extinction event against the log of the frequency of such events will be a straight line. This is characteristic of fractal systems and indicate the operation of chaotic-nonlinear dynamics.

What I therefore suspect is that earth has been subject to hundreds of perturbations such as asteriod impacts and large volcanic events, or violent continental collisions or tearings apart. Each of these causes some extinctions, and the biggest mass extinctions such as the Permian-Triassic, are not necessarily caused by the biggest perturbations.

In fact, the chaotic network predicts that extinctions, large extinctions and even mass extinctions can, very rarely, occur spontaneously with no outside perturbations.

The scientific community when looking at complex systems such as climate and living ecosystems needs to move away from a “deus-ex-machina” way of thinking that every phenomenon much have directly proportional external causation, and recognise the powerful chaotic dynamics that can cause a system to change itself profoundly with little or no external provocation.

Reply to  ptolemy2
March 27, 2017 9:14 pm

You argue essentially a quantum theory biological of causation, as if the true causes of mass extinctions are unknowable, like the exact position of an electron. I disagree.

We can navigate to the moon, or any other planet in our solar system (except Mercury) with deus- x-machina mechanics.

In my opinion, quantum inexplicability does not apply of the scale of mass extinctions, or climate. We can know these things, but it will not be easy for us.

Reply to  ptolemy2
March 28, 2017 5:34 am

This is not about inexplicability. Its about internal dynamics and the solidly established phenomenon of nonlinear pattern formation and chaos which science is continually forgetting, 50-blind-dates-style. It’s a fundamental piece of understanding of the universe which for some reason just can’t take root in the scientific community. If must offend some powerful element of socio-psychology. Maybe one has to be autistic to understand it.

It’s quite easy to visualise. Consider a species going extinct. Sometimes this will not affect others all that much, perhaps just reduce competition. But what if the departed species is a major food item for another species? That species will also go extinct. Other species may have interactions with both species causing them to go extinct. Occasionally one extinction can lead to a large chain of extinctions. However results of perturbations are modified by adaptation of the network, making it more resilient.

Chaotic hard-to-predict-ness is not analagous in any way to Heisenberg uncertainty or superposition of simultaneous waveforms and entanglement.

In a chaotic network every change between two connected elements affects all other connections to a greater or lesser extent. The log-log maths that emerge from it are quite deterministic – it can be shown on an Excel spreadsheet.

Reply to  gymnosperm
March 27, 2017 3:36 pm

Sorry for repeat post – thought the first one had disappeared but not

March 27, 2017 9:31 am

As limited as the science is at this point, the extinctions might as well have been caused by carbon taxes imposed on the victims.

K. Kilty
March 27, 2017 10:23 am

According to a paper published in the journal Palaeoworld, volcanic eruptions pumped large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air, causing average temperatures to rise by eight to 11°C.

And the attendant HCl and SO2 were no big deal after all that CO2.

March 27, 2017 12:04 pm

I am sure this post is an April fools day joke.

March 27, 2017 12:08 pm

Calling Bill Illis – come and shes some light on this – you have previously shown graphs of cooling rather than warming at the P-T double headed extinction event.

March 27, 2017 3:18 pm


In other news,


Reply to  Merovign
March 27, 2017 4:47 pm

Paper is patient and computer panels are also there. Do you know how many stars stand at the great heavenly tent, the good Lord God has counted them so that not a single one is missing. Hopefully, he also counted the earth and she is not the devils. Notwithstanding the crap that is poured down on paper and computer panels.

March 27, 2017 8:45 pm

Even stopped clocks get it right once in a while. In this case Science Daily has the astonishing privilege of flatly contradicting Doc Wadhams regarding the cause of the Permian extinction. A group of Swiss researchers have found that It was COLD that did the damage.

The headline reads:

“Cold extermination: One of greatest mass extinctions was due to an ice age and not to Earth’s warming”

The original citation is:
Björn Baresel, Hugo Bucher, Borhan Bagherpour, Morgane Brosse, Kuang Guodun, Urs Schaltegger. Timing of global regression and microbial bloom linked with the Permian-Triassic boundary mass extinction: implications for driving mechanisms. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7: 43630 DOI: 10.1038/srep43630

Reply to  Duster
March 28, 2017 2:05 am

too late, the science is settled…

Reply to  tobyglyn
March 28, 2017 3:13 am

The paper(s) are available online, see below.

March 28, 2017 3:11 am

This is an utterly wretched paper that should never have made it through peer review. Just consider this statement:

“Considering the global warming potential of both CO2 and CH4, the Global Mean Air Temperature (GMAT) may have varied from 29 to 34°C, which correspond well to within several degrees to water temperatures recorded by tropical end Permian shallow-water brachiopods from northern Italy (Brand et al., 2012) and Tibet (Garbelli et al., 2015).”

Today tropical surface water temperatures usually range in the 25-32 degree temperature range, while GMAT is about 15 degrees, but in the late Permian they are supposed to have been equal? I would dearly like to know how a climate system without any temperature difference between tropics and polar areas is supposed to work.

Also if you take the trouble to dig into the data (Table 1-2) you find that the central postulate of the paper, that the CO2/CH4 ratio of the atmosphere is reflected in gas inclusions in brachiopod shells is pure nonsense. The CO2/CH4 ratio for modern shells varies from 1.1 to 390 and as a matter of fact all the measured gas ratios vary wildly with no discernable relation to atmospheric ratios, N2 for example from 0.1 % to 3.7 % (compared to 78 % in the atmosphere).

The Late Permian ratios oddly enough are rather more stable (but overlapped by the modern ones), suggesting that diagenetic factors are at work, evening things out.

Manic self citationing is, as always, a warning sign (“Brand et al 2012” is cited 18(!) times in 14 pages).

By the way the photograph at the top with the text about the P/Tr regression and probable glaciation is a hold-over from a few weeks ago when two very careful papers argued for a “short sharp” volcano-induced glaciation exactly at the extinction level as the killer mechanism. They are well worth reading, though quite technical:

It is worth noting that all the analysed brachiopod shells are actually from before the extinction interval for this very reason. The regression means that there are virtually no shallow-water deposits known from the extinction interval.

Reply to  tty
March 28, 2017 5:37 am


Reply to  tty
March 28, 2017 6:14 pm

The Swiss paper has a number of interesting points. However the glacial event was I suspect either simply a contributing factor or even irrelevant. The primary problem with all land-based “causes” to the Permian extinction is that it was most extensive in the oceans (90% of marine genera IIRC). It was bad on land, but significantly less so. That leaves you with the question of what kind of event or process could have a significantly greater effect on the oceans than on dry land. No “climatic” explanation short of extended global cloud cover causing primary production to collapse seems feasible. I feel reasonably confident that primary production collapse was the “cause” of the extinction. CO2 was scant, comparable to the present, and the planet was cold, also similar to the present. But even so, how did the oceans happen to take the brunt?

March 29, 2017 6:24 pm

Apparently these alleged “scientists” didn’t bother to study the Permian-Triassic MEE before presuming to write about it.

The mass extinctions occurred due to global cooling, not global warming.

Amusing that this UPI report uses the same graphic:

March 30, 2017 12:19 am

Yet another pontification on the Permian-Triassic extinction…….it will keep geoscientists busy for centuries
Think of all those research grants

Currently the applications will all be worded something like….. “A new perspective on the P-T extinction…and its relevance to current climate change”

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