More evidence: Great Permian Extinction, 250 million years ago, was caused by massive volcanic eruptions

From NYU:

New evidence that Siberian volcanic eruptions caused extinction 250 million yrs ago

A team of scientists has found new evidence that the Great Permian Extinction, which occurred approximately 250 million years ago, was caused by massive volcanic eruptions that led to significant environmental changes.

The study, which appears in the journal Scientific Reports, reports a global spike in the chemical element nickel at the time of extinction. The anomalous nickel most likely came from emanations related to the concurrent huge volcanic eruptions in what is now Siberia. These eruptions, the researchers say, are associated with nickel-rich magmatic intrusions — rocks formed from the cooling of magma — that contain some of the greatest deposits of nickel ore on the planet.

Using an Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer, which measures the abundance of rare elements at their atomic level, the scientists documented anomalous peaks of nickel in regions ranging from the Arctic to India at the time of the Great Permian Extinction — distributions that suggest these nickel anomalies were a worldwide phenomenon.

This new evidence of a nickel fingerprint at the time of the extinctions convinced the scientists that it was the volcanic upheaval in Siberia that produced intense global warming and other environmental changes that led to the disappearance of more than 90 percent of all species.

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“The Siberian volcanic eruptions and related massive intrusions of nickel-rich magmas into the Earth’s crust apparently emitted nickel-rich volatiles into the atmosphere, where they were distributed globally,” explains New York University geologist Michael Rampino, the paper’s senior author. “At the same time, explosive interactions of the magma with older coal deposits could have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases, which would explain the intense global warming recorded in the oceans and on land at the time of the mass extinctions. The warm oceans also became sluggish and depleted in dissolved oxygen, contributing to the extinction of many forms of life in the sea”.

“This new finding, which contributes further evidence that the Siberian Trap eruptions were the catalyst for the most extensive extinction event Earth has ever endured, has exciting implications,” says Sedelia Rodriguez, a co-author of the paper and lecturer in the department of Environmental Science at Barnard College. “We look forward to expanding our research on nickel and other elements to delineate the specific areas affected by this eruption. In doing so, we hope to learn more about how these events trigger massive extinctions that affect both land and marine animals. Additionally, we hope this research will contribute to determining whether an event of this magnitude is possible in the future.”



112 thoughts on “More evidence: Great Permian Extinction, 250 million years ago, was caused by massive volcanic eruptions

  1. So do volcanic eruptions increase the earth’s temperature or decrease the temperature? Will atmospheric dust block the sun more than the release of “intense green house gasses” will cause warming? Either way the authors are convinced Siberian volcanism was the cause, just not sure how it did it.

    • Flood basalt volcanism isn’t exactly like one-off, explosive volcanic eruptions, but at least they’re not fingering just CO2.

      • More than likely it was SO2 and other aromatic areosols also ejected into the atmosphere during the eruptions causing dramatic cooling that lead to the extinction.

      • Indeed Willy Pete, (Great name, willy peter makes you a believer)! When Pinatubo went off the clown prince of global warming Suzuki, in tears of panic assured us all that the world was coming to an end due to the colossal release of Co2, far, far greater than all the Co2 released by man in history. In actual fact what happened was that we had a couple of years of slight cooling and pretty sunsets, and then….back to normal.
        Decades later and the imbecilic Suzuki still brazenly tells us ‘its much worse than we previously thought’…. In all seriousness, you would have to be a complete fuckwitt to believe anything these cretins advocate. I hope to meet Suzuki one day. It will be a memorable day for him.

      • One of the hazards of erupting through a coal seam. Reportedly, there is a fly ash layer in there somewhere.

      • I agree, Willy. So how did this type of eruption throw nickel rich magma all over the planet? It’s always been my suspicion that this was a meteor strike that initiated the eruptions. Deccan Traps were similarly caused by the Shiva strike I believe. These strikes were the real agents of the these two extinction events. Climate change was probably substantial and brief and happened to a lot of already dead animals and plants!

      • John,

        The nickel spread the same way that other particulates extend across the earth from large explosive eruptions. Flood basalts do have some more powerful eruptions. I’m most familiar with those of the Columbia Plateau.

        The Deccan Traps weren’t caused by the putative Shiva impact. They resulted from the Indian Plate’s passing over the Reunion Island hot spot during its high speed traverse of the Indian Ocean.

  2. Of course, India then lay between about 60 and 40 degrees South latitude, contiguous to Antarctica.

    • Different planet back then. Here’s a different map that shows, more clearly I think, that the world’s land was (probably) clumped into a single continent that ran pretty much pole to pole. I should think that world might have had considerably different weather patterns than we have today.with most planet’s surface heat circulation taking place in that huge Panthallasic Ocean. It’s not clear to me what the impact would be of massive shield vulcanism in far Northern latitudes. Apparently it was dramatic.

      I’ve never had much luck displaying images on WordPress sites, but what the heck, I’ll try again.

      • Don K, your above posted url “link” is a “xxx.htm” link ……. and it has to be an image link such as …… “xxx.img”, …… “xxx.jpeg”, …… “xxx.gif”, …… link to display a graphic or photo.

      • Don, Right click on the picture and select ‘Copy Image Address’ – Then paste in the post.
        I use those maps too. Note The ‘India Plate’ is underwater.

        Milanovskiy (1976) concluded that the original volume of the Traps and related rocks exceeded 2 x10^6 km3, and Masaitis (1983) estimated their volume to be ~ 4 x 10^6 km3. Reichow et al. (2002) estimated the present-day volumes to be around 2.3 x 10^6 km3, but their estimate did not take into account any igneous rocks in the Yenesei-Khatanga Trough, Taimyr Peninsula, or beneath the Kara Sea. Any ‘working estimate’ for the total volume of erupted magmatic products is likely to be at least 3 x10^6 km3, and possibly as much as 5 x10^6 km3.

        None of these estimates considers the volume of deeply-seated intrusions (e.g. magmatic underplate at the base of the crust, and frozen magma bodies in the lower and middle crust). If the Siberian Traps are analogous to the North Atlantic Igneous Province, it is likely that many million cubic kilometers of material lie buried at depth in the crust or uppermost mantle.

        Molten rock can vary between 700 and 1,200 degrees C (1,300 to 2,200 F).
        Tell me what climate effects 3 to 5 million KM^3 of 1000 degree C lava flowing and cooling will do to the Temperature of this planet.

      • Referencing the site rather than the image was certainly part of my problem. But it still doesn’t display.

        Right then, well let’s try wrapping it in an img tag

        If that doesn’t work, I’ll go off an steady the (gawdawful — Is all that JS wrapping really needed?) HTML for a while.

      • AH HA, you must be a “newbie” poster, Don K, ….. and not yet “authorized” to post photos or images.

    • +100

      Thank you, these studies need to use the “way back machine” to properly present context before drawing conclusions.

  3. What evidence do they have that these magmas would have a higher concentration off Nickel? Why could the volcanic activity be triggered by a massive nickel-iron asteroid hit? What would happen if something like Psyche 16 hit the Earth, or a cluster of smaller objects?

      • No, that is not good. If the extinction was caused by a meteor one cannot blame CO2 any more….
        ” explosive interactions of the magma with older coal deposits could have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane,

      • No, there couldn’t be.

        1) It’s not known if that feature is a crater, and

        2) Whether, if so, it’s of the right age, and

        3) There is no evidence of an impact, such as shocked quartz, in its immediate area or adjoining terrain, such as Australia then was.

      • “explosive interactions of the magma with older coal deposits could have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane”

        Unfortunately there are no coal deposits in the Siberian traps area. However there are large deposits of kerogen-rich shales. But such details doesn’t really matter. The main thing is to follow the party line.

      • I believe there is limited evidence of Iridium associated with the Permian event but not shocked quatrtz that I know of.

    • Tom,
      The ‘debris’ in the asteroid belt is thought to be remnants of a disrupted planetoid. The material is apparently analogous to mantle and core material in Earth. Meteors/asteroids have high concentrations of siderophilic elements (such as nickel), as does the Earth’s mantle. The basalt erupted in Siberia was probably the result of partial melting or residual melt from mantle ultramafic rocks. That is, the basalt is lacking high concentrations of the minerals with very high melting points such as olivine and chromite. Generally, secondary deposits of nickel are derived from lateritic weathering of ultramafic rocks like peridotite/dunite, or the serpentinized derivatives. The bottom line is that mafic and ultramafic Earth rocks are analogues of what comes in from the solar system. Without a Permian crater, it might be difficult to be certain where the nickel originated.

      • Clyde. I don’t want to come across as an expert on meteorites. There are experts. I’m not one of them. I think you’re generally correct. The asteroid belt probably is composed of fragments of a planet that never formed or formed and then broke up. But there are lots of issues. Meteorites composition is quite diverse. Also the folks working in Antarctica where they are pretty sure any rock laying around on the surface of the ice arrived by air, report that NIckel-Iron meteorites seem to be much rarer than we thought. Their apparent abundance in older collections may be due to the fact that they are easy to recognize compared to stuff that looks sort of like any other country rock.

    • Tom, Clyde gave a good general answer. But specific to the Siberian Traps eruption, the great nickel/copper mines of Norilisk are ends of sills from the eruption, proof positive portions were nickel enriched.

    • Siberia had been moving northwest due to continental drift for about 100 million years before the date of the 2 million year long Siberian Traps “eruptions”.

      It is more likely that Siberia overrode enough oceanic plate and/or a smaller continental land mass in all that drift so the overridden plate material sank deep into the mantle. Eventually this plate just got too hot to remain at depth. Crustal material is much less dense than mantle material and contains more water and is just more likely to erupt out.

      This would be just like the Ring of Fire volcanoes which is caused by subducting plates except it would have been much more material than is available along the Ring of Fire.

      When it came up from the depths, it brought along with it lots of nickel. You know that the interior of the Earth has a huge amount of nickel in it. It does not have come from asteroids. It was all here to start with, just like the water was and did not have to come from comets.

    • What evidence do they have that these magmas would have a higher concentration off Nickel?


      The Siberian magma’s demonstrably do have a higher concentration of Nickel than most (all?) other flood basalts?. Not theirs to wonder why? Their contribution to human knowledge is that trace amounts of Nickel — presumably from the Siberian magmas — are found worldwide at the time of the Permian extinction event?

    • That the alleged gravitational anomaly was supposedly discovered by a “scientist” at GISS doesn’t inspire confidence.

      However, could be. Would require finding impact debris evidence of the right age emanating from that area.

    • I agree with the scientist quoted in the Newsweek report:

      But not everyone is convinced of the link. Michael Benton, a paleontologist from the University of Bristol, told Newsweek in an email interview that while the discovery of an impact basin is interesting, it is not necessarily related to the Great Dying.

      ‘There have been several suggestions that the end-Permian mass extinction was linked to impact, including possible craters off Australia, and this one in the South Atlantic,” he says. “The link of the current crater to the extinction is hugely tenuous—it could be the cause, but evidence is not presented for that idea.

      “It is only tentatively identified as a crater, and its age is estimated as Late Paleozoic—so it could be millions of years older than the critical boundary. Further, there is no evidence elsewhere in the world of the fallout for impact—as we know from the later impact at the end of the Cretaceous [period], you expect to find a shopping list of ten or more indicators of impact scattered worldwide, such as shocked quartz and iridium enrichment, but these have not been found. The study of a new crater is massively important, but it’s unlikely it had anything to do with the end-Permian mass extinction.”

      • WP you quote Michael Benton “you expect to find a shopping list of ten or more indicators of impact scattered worldwide, such as shocked quartz and iridium enrichment, but these have not been found”

        If an asteroid fell into an ocean (which it has a 70 percent chance of doing!) you wouldn’t find shocked quartz because oceanic crust doesn’t contain quartz.

        It may be that these authors haven’t looked for iridium enrichment, but if there’s nickel enrichment there would be an extremely good chance of an iridium anomaly (or other platinum-group metals) because they do tend to hang out with nickel in mafic to ultramafic rocks of either terrestrial or meteoric origin, but at concentrations that are two or three of orders of magnitude lower.

        Not a good argument against an impact.

        Not sure about the rest of the “ten or more” impact indicators though. But have they been looked for?

        Massive flood basalt eruptions are not that uncommon in the earth’s history, and they aren’t all associated with mass extinctions. I would tend to favour an impact that causes extinctions and also shakes the earth up enough to cause a large basalt eruption as well.

      • Continental shelf around the Falklands was dry land at the Permian-Triassic boundary, part of Gondwana, ie southern Pangaea.

        But even if it wasn’t, your argument fails, since the Cretaceous impact on the Yucatan was in seawater. Yet there is ample evidence of fallout from the impact near and far. Admittedly, it was fairly shallow water, ie continental shelf.

    • The “Deccan traps” were supposed to be the cause of the Cretaceous extinction of the dinosaurs, but the cause was later determined to be an asteroid.

      Maybe. Maybe Not. The Deccan Traps were indeed thought to be the cause of the end-Cretaceous extinction event. Then the Chicxulub Crater and the (almost certainly) associated Iridium layer(s) were found and geologists spent the next two decades looking for similar impact events associated with other extinction events — without a lot of success. … And, an Iridium layer that may or may not be associated with the Chicxulub event has been identified within the Deccan sequence — i.e. the Deccan eruption was possibly underway when the Chicxulub object arrived.

      And while there is plenty of evidence that the dinosaurs were thriving up to the end of the Cretaceous and were scarce at best thereafter, a number of other well established groups — Icthyosaurs, Rudist clams, Ammonites appear to have gone extinct or to have been in severe decline at the time of the Chicxulub event.

      And the mechanism(s) by which the Chicxulub event wiped out critters in distant parts of the world are far from clear.

      My understanding is that right now, the KT extinction event seems no where near as straightforward as it did a decade or two ago. Could have been vulcanism. Or impact, or (quite possibly) a combination of both.

    • Thank you, Allan! I have been interested in this for a long time and have always suspected that an impact was responsible. When the Alvarez’s presented their impact theory for the K-T extinction they were ridiculed. If not for Walter’s reputation, the theory probably would have been buried deeper than the evidence. I also believe their is a very good chance that another, larger impact at the Shiva site contributed to the disaster, with evidence there of shocked quartz and Iridium.
      Since that impact probably caused the Deccan Traps eruptions I therefore think there is a very good chance that the Siberian Traps have a similar cause. The exact mechanism is yet to be determined if that is even correct, but at least it’s real science.
      It’s not, “I found a dead bird on the side walk and there was some CO2 in the area”!

  4. An active rift system would further bury the older coal strata. Let’s see more field data before the arm waving.

      • There is no convincing evidence that that feature is a crater. But if it is, it’s the wrong age, since there are no telltale impact deposits in the end Permian age rocks around it and in Australia.

        That hypothesis has long since been debunked.

  5. Of course, it had to be magma interacting with previously deposited Carboniferous coal deposits which released CO2 which warmed the oceans and atmosphere which lead to the extinctions.

    Do these people ever give up ? Maybe it was just enormous volumes of magma into the oceans themselves that warmed them up. Why invent some contorted third party culprit just because it fits a modern (and flawed) analogue.

    • Right on, IC. It takes a lot of heat (heat of fusion) to melt a rock! Want Global Warming? Try superheated air – or boiling water.

    • Let’s think of 200 metres of coal versus 4000 metres of magma.

      Which had more impact you think.

      Does magma emit CO2 (duh). Does magma also release huge amounts of other volatile gases? Ever see a volcanic column going 20 kms high? These volcanoes went 40 kms high – for 2 million years, not just one day.

  6. From the article: “…explosive interactions of the magma with older coal deposits could have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases, which would explain the intense global warming recorded in the oceans and on land at the time of the mass extinctions.” Why no mention of sulfur dioxide derived from both the coal and magma? Sulfuric acid is a much stronger acid than carbonic, and might have had a significant impact on water pH.

    Nickel is not a benign metal. Many people are allergic to it. However, in its typical primary occurrence, it is usually associated with arsenic, which has its own biological issues. I think that there are many good reasons to believe that the Siberian traps had a significant impact on the bio-geochemistry of the time. However, it may be a stretch to blame the Permian extinction exclusively on carbon dioxide and methane (which oxidizes to CO2 quickly).

    • You are hitting the nail on the head here in my opinion Clyde. New York University geologist Michael Rampino is quoted to add the following:

      “The Siberian volcanic eruptions and related massive intrusions of nickel-rich magmas into the Earth’s crust apparently emitted nickel-rich volatiles into the atmosphere, where they were distributed globally”

      So, in the Algorean alternative reality yet to be sustainably baptised: even if magma would be oozing from the Earth at nearly Algorean temperatures emitting nickel-rich volatiles into the outside air globally, enough to cause the great Permian extinction level event, the most preoccupying risk to life in the earthly greenhouse would be a trace gas essential to photosynthesis.

    • Not just Nickel. Russia contains 139 copper deposits, about 10 percent of the world’s copper reserves. According to the United States Geological Survey, in 2009 it ranked seventh in annual copper production.
      Russia’s copper reserves are located in Siberia (70 percent) and the Urals (20 percent).

      And what happens with copper mixes? – Copper sulfate pentahydrate is a fungicide. However, some fungi are capable of adapting to elevated levels of copper ions. Mixed with lime it is called Bordeaux mixture and used to control fungus on grapes, melons, and other berries.

      Getting rid of a lot of fungus affects the food chain.

  7. The headline of the article is misleading. There was a volcanic eruption 250 million years ago. The extinction debate is about whether or not the eruption was the main cause of the extinction or perhaps was just another contributing factor.

    To determine the answer to this question, people have been trying to determine more closely the date of the extinction with respect to the eruption. The latest data I’ve looked at shows that the extinction appears to occur around when the eruption first began or perhaps slightly before. There is some evidence that an asteroid hit the earth slightly before the eruption began. Some think the asteroid impact may have contributed to the eruption.

    There are a lot of questions about this that need to be answered. The article didn’t seem to address any of the outstanding questions. It only offered more evidence that the eruption we know happened, happened.

  8. So, Hillary was right: The Great Permian Extinction was caused by the Russians. Wait until CNN finds out.

    • Siberians of the Late Permian:

      The gorgonopsid Inostrancevia alexandri (aka Putinopsius vladimirus) attacking Scutosaurus.

      • The gorgonopsid in that illustration was a mammal-like reptile being kind-of half-way to a mammal. They would have needed to evolve back-and-forth leg locomotion versus the side-to-side crocodile walk to make the next leap but this was already in the works.

        The Permian Extinction allowed the reptile-like dinosaurs to take over dominance while without the extinction, the mammals would have become dominant.

        Funny it wasn’t until another 2 mass extinction events, the second 185 million later, that the dinosaurs got replaced by mammals for dominance.

      • Bill,

        Yup. Synapsids (mammals and kin) alternate with diapsids (reptiles and kin) as dominant land and sea vertebrates. As you note, in the late Paleozoic Era, our relatives and ancestors the synapsids (like Dimetrodon and Late Permian “Gorgo”, above) were top proto-dogs. Then, during the Mesozoic Era, diapsids gained during the Triassic, then dominated in the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. Given the plenitude of birds, it’s possible to argue that diapsids also have dominated in the Cenozoic Era, yet it’s still called the Age of Mammals.

  9. The only word to describe this assertion is “pure geophantasy.” When will these pseudoscientists get the message that CO2 ALWAYS precedes warming, so volcanic CO2 release could not have caused warming. The presence of Ni proves absolutely nothing!

      • Steven – you’ve said this before. I urge you to think about what you are saying. If warming => more CO2 => more warming => more CO2 => more warming => more CO2 and so on ad infinitum, you are postulating a feedback loop that is inherently unstable and will lead to runaway warming at the very slightest disturbance. Makes you sound like a crackpot warmist (“oceans will boil”) instead of a reasonable lukewarmer, which the tone of most of your comments tends to imply.

        Take a step back and look at Earth history.

        Geology Steven

      • Comments such as the one at 1:21 may be both a cause of ignorance, and the result of (willful) ignorance.

        Yes, I am postulating an inherently unstable ignorance feedback loop that has quickly spiraled out of control and led most countries in the world into an agreement/treaty that, if enforced based on the accepted inherent feedback (IPPC), billions of dollars will be spent to try to ameliorate less than 1 degree (F) of BENEFICIAL earth warming over the next 85 years.

        I realize this might make me sound like a crackpot to some, but it is obvious that feedback loops sometimes do spiral out of control. Some feedback loops are also based on greed, but saying so gets a person labeled as an even bigger crackpot. Maybe it’s a combination of both ignorance and greed.

        If I had been plopped smack dab in the middle of the Dutch Tulip bubble and all my friends were tulip owners, I might have had a hard time calling them greedy (or ignorant). I might even have signed up to be part of the show … although I like to think that I wouldn’t have. What would Mosher have done?

      • You’ve got it, Don! CO2 causes ignorance! It has been proven at higher doses so following the rule of “make up whatever the F you want, ergo; CO2 at even low doses causes people’s minds to ignore (there’s that root word again) all evidence and logic! Bravo!

  10. So that whole business of plate tectonics and continental drift have nothing to do with the Permian extinction, huh? Doesn’t explain why my horsetail plant fossils match the horsetail plants you can still find now, if you know where to look, does it?
    Gee, I wondered, when I read that brief address, if there was even the slightest possibility that it’s a joke of some kind. Then I realized that it was just another begging presentation – gmme some cash.

  11. Mentions the two phobias carbon dioxide and methane.
    Plus some causative lines—therefore this, then, therefore that…see a lot of this uttered by Wall Street economists.

  12. I don’t think enough has been done yet to tell whether an anomalously high nickel signature is geologic (and ‘good luck’) or astrophysical. For instance, there is very little theory to support WHY the Siberian traps area would have a mantle layer that has significant nickel enrichment as opposed to most of the rest of the Earth, which doesn’t.

    Moreover, it is widely (and well) known that the large copper abundance of the Great Lakes region was deposited there by a big ol’ metal-type meteorite that blasted the crâhp out of the area some billion-plus years ago. Evidence of that now just chemical, no longer physical. Erosion. Uplift. All that.

    We also know quite well that the “iron meteors” are actually composed of a rich mixture of iron and nickel. And copper. And sulfur as sulfides. If a big old meteorite or two slammed into the Siberian Traps area somewhat before the traps started flowing in earnest, not only would the nickel abundance come about, but the fell-field and atmosphere would have a lot of nickel. That’d go everywhere.


    • Nickel is the last element produced through fusion as a star is getting ready to explode as a supernova. It might only be produced in the last few (1000s of) years of a +10 solar mass star just before it explodes as a supernova.

      Iron, the last element that produces net energy from fusion, combining with Helium, still common in an about to explode supernova star, results in Nickel. Lots of Iron, lots of Helium, means lots of Nickel. But producing Nickel actually pulls energy out of the star and thus it cannot last very long before the stability of the star is compromised.

      While lots of other heavier elements are produced as the supernova blows away the outer layers of the star and are slammed together by the force of the explosion, Nickel turns out to be the heaviest element produced by stars just before they go supernova. It is not very much and the force of the explosion creates even more Nickel, as Iron is slammed together with Helium, but it is last element of normal nuclear fusion.

      So, where is all the Nickel? It is heavy. It is deep in the Core and in the Mantle, although Iron is far, far more common given the way stars produce elements. So Iron is the bulk of the core followed by Nickel next.

      So it is not common at all in the crust and it takes a huge event to bring Nickel to the surface, but these events do happen. Very large volcanoes, mantle plumes, asteroid impacts. Otherwise, you have to go very deep to find the second most common very heavy element, Nickel.

      • Just noting that the Earth is really composed of the remnants of several supernova stars and several Red Giant stars. Hydrogen and Helium are the basic building blocks of the solar system, but these mostly ended up in the Sun.

        Hydrogen has combined with Oxygen to create water which is very common on Earth of course but all the Oxygen came from a supernova explosion or a Red Giant as it cast off its outer layers.

        All of the heavier than Lithium elements that make up you and your backyard came from an earlier supernova star or a red giant. Who knows how many individual stars that represents.

        But the Iron and the Nickel and the Potassium and the Calcium came from long ago supernovas. The Carbon and the Oxygen might have been produced in a long ago Red Giant but these are also more likely to come from a supernova star.

        Despite Carl Sagan, this is not widely known.

  13. Interesting new piece of evidence, but just a new piece. We know the Siberian Traps flood basalt was nickel rich because some of the emplaced sills comprise todays Norilisk nickel/copper mines. This new paper proves it was significantly aerosolized, suggesting widespread atmospheric effects from a ‘gassy’ eruption. We know from recent MIT work that the major Siberian eruptions were in three phases. First small one about 1/2 million years before the permian extinction, the major one associated with the great dying, and a third ‘after’ ending about 1/2 million years ‘later’.
    Dating the fossil record is not easy for 252mya, but the ‘best’ papers (defined as quality of science and controls and error estimates) have the majority of the great dying occuring during about ‘only’ 60+/-48 ka. See for example Burgess et. al. PNAS 2014 (251.94 to 251.88).
    Studied the Great dying extensively because was going to write an essay partly debunking the analogy to CAGW such as at ScepticalScience. (As some of the good comments upthread have noted). Ultimately did not because of the complexity of the event.
    There were likely two basic phases (and these could have been repeated several times over thousands of years of massive eruptions). The first phase would have come from SO2 aerosol, acid rain and likely associated cooling. We know this had to occur because of terrestrial plant impoverishment. All forest like plant fossils (like the coal forming plants of the carboniferous) disappeared globally (meaning from all of supercontinent Pangea at all of its then latitudes) and remaining plant assemblages of ‘scrub’ were species depleted. That is a hallmark of acid rain, not temperature. This acid rain would also have started acidifying the oceans, especially shallows, where the most severe marine species extinctions took place. We know from the long negative excursion of 44/40Ca isotopes in marine limestone during and after the event that the carbon cycle was disrupted by longer term ocean acidification from CO2. We also know that some of this CO2 was from the mantle flood basalt because of the associated excursion in 13C. We also know some CO2 was from burning of the Siberian Traps region massive coal deposits (which because of photosynthetic origin are preferentially 12C) because the Chinese have in northern China recovered 12C soot and coal fly ash from fossil lake bed sediments of the time.
    Whether the Deccan traps are related to the KT extinction Chixilub bolide has been debated here before. It was not antipodal at the time, may not have been abrupt or massive enough, is clearly related to what is now the Reunion hot spot mantle plume, and is not iridium rich like the KT layer the Alvarez father and son showed exists around the world.

    • Siberian traps are not particularly enriched in nickel. The nickel-copper deposits of Norilsk were formed because the magmas had access to lots of sulphur (aka sulfur) from the sediments that they intruded, which formed an immiscible iron-sulphide liquid within the basalt magma. Nickel and copper are partitioned at about 50:1 between sulphide and silicate magmas, and the platinum group metals are partitioned at over 1,000:1. Sulphide liquids being much heavier than basalt magmas, (and much less viscous), they found their way to the low spots where the Norilsk mines are situated

      This is no longer controversial. See multiple publications by Tony Naldrett from 1967 on.

      The amount of nickel and copper at Norilsk, although huge, is a tiny fraction of the nickel and copper in the parent basalt. They are just concentrated at levels that can be economically mined, and in sulphides that can be easily smelted.

      • SR, thanks for that comment. I was able to do some more geology research today based on your observation about the nature of the Norilisk ore bodies. Indeed, the central and western parts of the Siberian Traps are underlain by extensive thick gypsum/anhydrite evaporite deposits dating to the Lower Devonian. The largest gypsum mine in Eurasia (Slovorum) is in a similar deposit west of the Traps. So, the main Dying culprit would have been SO2 rather than CO2, and more from the intruded geology than the flood basalt itself. This is an important geology fact I did not find in the several Permian Dying papers I researched back in 2014. Also makes more sense for the ocean acidification observations; sulfuric acid is not highly buffered by ocean chemistry, whereas CO2 carbonic acid chemistry is. Essay Shell Games has those buffering particulars.
        I might write up a guest post for AW, credit to you, providing lots of references. Your insight deserves wider recognition.

  14. “explosive interactions of the magma with older coal deposits could have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane”

    How does this garbage ever get published?…..this is such a stretch “could have” doesn’t even begin to cover it…

    oh wait…Scientific Reports is……..Nature


    • Latitude. See my comment just above for observational evidence.. The stuff quoted is well established in the literature. Just grossly overstated. Likely that more damage was done by SO2 than CO2. And for sure some of the CO2 came from flood basalts based on isotope signature.

    • Latitude, that immediately had me irritated…the ‘could have’ syndrome kowtowing to the present CAGW rubbish.

  15. So this is a play on the Alvarez study of extinction but using base metals. It’s a low-budget replacement.

    • Don’t think so. Alvarez showed irridum everywhere in the KT layer. Had to come from a bolide since is so rare otherwise. Nickel in the Siberian traps eruption is easily shown by the great Nirilisk nickel mines in the area.

  16. Permian extinction caused by Siberian trap flood basalt?
    Wow that’s a new idea! (/sarc)
    In other news – scientists reveal night is caused by earth surface rotating into the sun’s shadow.
    Both discoveries find the underlying cause to be CO2 and that we must act now. (Again.)

  17. At the same time, explosive interactions of the magma with older coal deposits could have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases, which would explain the intense global warming recorded in the oceans and on land at the time of the mass extinctions.

    Not so.

    Bill Illis has previously posted this graph showing that while global temperatures were high before and after the Permian extinction event, the event itself was cold, not hot:

    How does this study start with nickel and end with CO2?
    How did the satan qas sneak in, yet again?

      • As commented above, the Siberian Traps intruded and overrode a lot of gypsum (CaSO4) bearing sediments. Leading to formation of Cu-Ni sulphides at Norilsk but probably discharging shed loads of SO2 into the atmosphere. Gypsum is the culprit. Throw out your wallboard – it’s evil.

    • I think these volcanoes were big enough so that many types of volatile gases were emitted. There is a strong possibility that the atmosphere itself contained enough harmful gases (or let’s say just periodically when really large individuals eruptions occurred – the Traps were a series of volcanoes and flood basalts lasting 2 million years), so that every now and again, many animals died over the periodic episodes.

      Eventually, species became extinct as net reproductive effort failed. Any of the sulfur gases (produced in great quantities by volcanoes) could have done this given how big these volcanoes really were.

      • DP, if Smart Rocks is right ( and I spent several hours todayntracking down geology papers saying he is) the the experts are wrong. Despite CO2 up, it would have initially cooled from sulfur aerosols. And the acidification was from sulfur, not carbon. Neat way to show the acience is not settled. Now definitely going to draft a potential guest post. Thanks for the needed extra inspiration do do the free work required.

  18. I keep seeing asteroid vs. volcano as the causation for the extinction. If the asteroid precedes the volcanic eruption, but by only a little, is it unreasonable to link them? Could the impact of the asteroid spurred an eruption?
    Regarding cooling vs. warming, I think the events over many years can account for both. A significant asteroid impact would blast enough material into the atmosphere to block sunlight and lower temperatures for as much as several years, resulting in a massive die off of plant and animal life. If the seismic effects of the impact spurred the eruptions, even years later, the ejection of dust, rock and the sulfur compounds, as opined by others, would cause another rapid cooling. The CO2 increase and “greenhouse” warming would have to first overcome the prior cooling and then trap heat for long enough that the geologic record would link the extinction to a warming event. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but the events described could take hundreds of years to complete cooling, recovery, cooling again and then heating again and we would just see heating 250 million years later. Anyway, I don’t see why the extinction has to be the result of a single event, asteroid or volcano, or just cooling or just warming. Put them all together over a couple of years, decades or even centuries and life takes a hit from everything.

    • Your comment got me thinking. Perhaps the argument about mass extinctions is neither chicken nor egg, but both? If the LIP guys are right, large igneous provinces (LIPs) take place on an irregular basis, so life should have evolved to deal with large volcanic events. Large impact events are more sporadic and short-lived events. What if it is not one or the other, but two or more massive insults to the environment in a short period of time whatever they are? We already know that an impact and LIP event are tied to the KT 65Ma. A LIP appears to be tied to the Permian event 250 Ma. Minor extinction event at the end of the Eocene with both a LIP and multiple large impacts (Chesapeake). Correlation is not causation, but I wonder. Cheers –

    • LIPs occur frequently only on the geologic time scale, and are often regionally limited.

      There is no convincing evidence of an impact at or around the end Permian flood basalt eruptions.

      The end Triassic mass extinction event was associated with the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province, the LIP from the rifting which started the breakup of Pangaea. But there was no impact then.

      The Deccan Traps flood basalt eruption started when the Indian Plate moved over the Reunion Island hot spot, well before the end Cretaceous impact, and was thus unrelated to it.

      • But the main effusive episode of the Deccan traps occurred just after the K/Pg boundary and may well have been initiated by it. It is well established that earthquakes can stimulate volcanic activity though the mechanism is not well understood.
        Before this main episode the Deccan eruptions hadn’t even exterminated dinosaurs on the (isolated) Indian subcontinent since there are dinosaur fossils in the intertrappan beds up to the K/Pg boundary.

      • There is evidence of Iridium deposits in the Deccan Traps as well as shocked quartz. For the Siberian Traps, a cometary impact may be a better explanation as they carry less Iridium.

      • Tty,

        The Deccan Traps were not antipodal to the Yucatan impact.

        You’re right, though, that the Traps couldn’t have wiped out so many organisms, either on the Indian Plate or globally.

        The Yucatan impact, however could and apparently did.

  19. “At the same time, explosive interactions of the magma with older coal deposits could have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane,…”

    No evidence mentioned for the release of CO2. Gawd, the stench of fear is strong. Why anybody doubts there is a climate of fear in science is beyond me.

  20. Methanogens use Nickel as a catalyst to produce Methane in Anoxic water. Methanogens predate chloroplasts in Earth’s history. Methane is a very potent greehouse gas. Very interesting..

    • Actually, the so-called iron meteorites are composed overwhelmingly of an iron–nickel alloy known as “meteoric iron” that usually consists of two mineral phases: kamacite and taenite.

      No surprise that the material of earth’s core is also common in space.

  21. NYU?

    In any case, another example where confirmation bias drives the research and all findings. e.g.

    “At the same time, explosive interactions of the magma with older coal deposits could have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, two greenhouse gases, which would explain the intense global warming recorded in the oceans and on land at the time of the mass extinctions. The warm oceans also became sluggish and depleted in dissolved oxygen, contributing to the extinction of many forms of life in the sea”

    Isn’t it amazing the amount of definitive information they claim to have discovered in their research?

    Meanwhile in the real world:

    “Mafic Layered Intrusions -Copper/Nickel Massive Sulfide
    Mafic Layered Intrusions and complexes including copper nickel massive sulfide, chrome and platinum group elements or PGE deposits.  
    This course on massive sulphide deposits includes copper and nickel exploration methods, nickel sulphide inclusions exploring for copper and nickel sulphide minerals.

    In the introductory Exploration Geology Course I mentioned felsic, mafic and ultramafic rocks but before I launch into talking about mafic layered complexes I should probably quickly review these descriptions for those who may not be exactly sure what they mean.

    Igneous Rocks is where the majority of copper nickel massive sulfide and chrome platinum group metal deposits developed in large intrusions that are made up of layers of alternating mafic and ultramafic rock hence the name mafic layered complexes.

    Now let’s launch into the main deposits types associated with mafic layered complexes which are the copper nickel massive sulfide, the platinum and chrome deposits.

    Mafic layered complexes are generally very large pancake shaped intrusions that because of their high initial heat and deep burial tend to cool slowly.

    “Norilsk’s Cu-Ni Deposit is situated in Northern Russia just 200 miles from the Arctic Ocean.
    Geologically, this is a somewhat different beast from Sudbury.

    The mineralization hosted by six separate intrusions that form feeders to the Siberian traps.

    The Siberian traps resulted from a huge outpouring of basaltic lavas about 250 million years ago that covered 3.9,000,000 km² of Russia.
    The eruption has been blamed for triggering a series of events that led to the extinction of 95% of the earth’s species at the end of Permian period.

    Once again the copper nickel massive sulfides are concentrated in low points at the base of the intrusions. This is a section of drill core from Norilsk, the yellow material is chalcopyrite and the bronze colored material is pentlandite a nickel sulfide.
    As at Sudbury the Norilsk deposits also contain PGE’s.

    Norilsk consist of five underground mines which feed essential (Inaudible 13:44) these mines have been active since the second world war when they played a vital part in Russia’s war effort.
    It’s difficult to get up to date production figures but throughout 2005 Norilsk produced 243,000 tons of nickel or 15% of the world’s supply half as much again as Sudbury.

    Where do these researchers get the idea to fixate on nickel?

    “Using an Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer, which measures the abundance of rare elements at their atomic level, the scientists documented anomalous peaks of nickel in regions ranging from the Arctic to India at the time of the Great Permian Extinction — distributions that suggest these nickel anomalies were a worldwide phenomenon”

    distributions that suggest these nickel anomalies were a worldwide phenomenon“? Suggest!?

    Never mind. Fake research.

  22. I wonder where people got this idea that the Siberian Traps erupted through coal seams? They didn’t, because there isn’t any. There is a lot of evaporites and some kerogen-rich shales and oil but no coal in the Tunguska basin. The large siberian coal deposits are further south in the Kuznetsk basin.

    Now baking evaporites and shales will certainly produce some CO2 and CH4, but also lots of other much nastier stuff, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, halogenated hydrocarbons and so on. Mixed up with an unusually heavy-metal and volatile-rich magma….

    Also the Siberian Traps is a very peculiar large magmatic province. Normally they conform to Kloos’ classical formula “Hebung, Spaltung, Vulkanismus” (rise, rift, erupt) and end up as a new ocean or at least a major failed rift system. The Siberian Traps erupted right through a major sedimentary basin with very little rifting and without forming a large highland bulge as ordinary large magmatic provinces do. And then it just went away without leaving a trace of a hotspot track.

    Could it have been a case of antipodal magmatism to a major impact?

  23. A reasonable question – is there any evidence of significant nickel vapourisationdeposition in other trap events apart from the Siberian event? Deccan traps for example? I don’t know the answer, but if the arguemeant is made that the Siberian traps are unique in this then I am less than convinced, especially if CO2 is worked into the equation for reasons of current fashionable thinkers no in climate science. Metal asteroids/meteorites with Nickel content constitute the biggest group of meteorites hitting the Earth, so I think this report needs to offer exceptional proof for a volcanic origin of the nickel.

    The Permian extinction is so far back that it is difficult to be certain of anything and any contribution offering new light is interesting and welcome. But I strongly believe there is an inherent bias among Earth scientists against impacts despite the success of the KT theory, which still generates increasingly desperate attempts to downplay play it from some people.

  24. How do they know it was the Siberian eruptions not the ones that produced the Deccan Trapps in India?

  25. I view the level of experience and knowledge displayed here as “interesting”.

    If one is at a skeet field
    1) what is being sent across the field is Kevlar skinned but mushy target
    2) you have a pellet gun to shoot at it.
    What happens if you (miraculously) actually hit the Kevlar skinned slush ball?

    1) where you (miraculously) hit, there will be a rebounding depression
    …may even “absorb” the pellet in some way, depending on how “firm” the pellet is.
    2) 180 degrees (center hit) or weirder dimension, there will be an attempt at “bursting out”
    and, of course, it does “interesting” things to the path, the spin, etc of the slush ball.

    Now, apply that knowledge to this rigid surfaced marble we call earth and the multitude of objects flying hither and yon in the solar system at any point in time.
    About once every couple million years a “big” gravel bag will hit and “stuff happens”.
    Be “smart” not “rote”.

  26. Just a bit of idle speculation

    “A team of scientists has found new evidence that the Great Permian Extinction, which occurred approximately 250 million years ago, was caused by massive volcanic eruptions that led to significant environmental changes.”
    Why such massive volcanic eruptions would happen?
    Large extraterrestrial impact?
    For some time I thought that the large extraterrestrial impact must have left evidence which can be seen on the global gravity / geoid anomaly map

    There are six likely locations of the presumed impacts, the most noticeable being at the India’s southern tip possibly causing break up of the Gondwanaland super-continent initiating the continental drift.

  27. tank you for the link. interesting article.
    Due to the continental drift the Gondwanaland impact’s antipodal effect might not be readily identified.
    However the Hudson bay impact may be far more recent and showing up as the positive anomaly in the New Guinea volcanically active area.

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