New evidence suggests volcanoes caused biggest mass extinction ever

Mercury found in ancient rock around the world supports theory that eruptions caused ‘Great Dying’ 252 million years ago.

From the University of Cincinnati:

Researchers say mercury buried in ancient rock provides the strongest evidence yet that volcanoes caused the biggest mass extinction in the history of the Earth.


CREDIT Illustration/Margaret Weiner/UC Creative Services

The extinction 252 million years ago was so dramatic and widespread that scientists call it “the Great Dying.” The catastrophe killed off more than 95 percent of life on Earth over the course of hundreds of thousands of years.

Paleontologists with the University of Cincinnati and the China University of Geosciences said they found a spike in mercury in the geologic record at nearly a dozen sites around the world, which provides persuasive evidence that volcanic eruptions were to blame for this global cataclysm.

The study was published this month in the journal Nature Communications.

The eruptions ignited vast deposits of coal, releasing mercury vapor high into the atmosphere. Eventually, it rained down into the marine sediment around the planet, creating an elemental signature of a catastrophe that would herald the age of dinosaurs.

“Volcanic activities, including emissions of volcanic gases and combustion of organic matter, released abundant mercury to the surface of the Earth,” said lead author Jun Shen, an associate professor at the China University of Geosciences.

The mass extinction occurred at what scientists call the Permian-Triassic Boundary. The mass extinction killed off much of the terrestrial and marine life before the rise of dinosaurs. Some were prehistoric monsters in their own right, such as the ferocious gorgonopsids that looked like a cross between a sabre-toothed tiger and a Komodo dragon.

The eruptions occurred in a volcanic system called the Siberian Traps in what is now central Russia. Many of the eruptions occurred not in cone-shaped volcanoes but through gaping fissures in the ground. The eruptions were frequent and long-lasting and their fury spanned a period of hundreds of thousands of years.

“Typically, when you have large, explosive volcanic eruptions, a lot of mercury is released into the atmosphere,” said Thomas Algeo, a professor of geology in UC’s McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.

“Mercury is a relatively new indicator for researchers. It has become a hot topic for investigating volcanic influences on major events in Earth’s history,” Algeo said.

Researchers use the sharp fossilized teeth of lamprey-like creatures called conodonts to date the rock in which the mercury was deposited. Like most other creatures on the planet, conodonts were decimated by the catastrophe.

The eruptions propelled as much as 3 million cubic kilometers of ash high into the air over this extended period. To put that in perspective, the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington sent just 1 cubic kilometer of ash into the atmosphere, even though ash fell on car windshields as far away as Oklahoma.

In fact, Algeo said, the Siberian Traps eruptions spewed so much material in the air, particularly greenhouse gases, that it warmed the planet by an average of about 10 degrees centigrade.

The warming climate likely would have been one of the biggest culprits in the mass extinction, he said. But acid rain would have spoiled many bodies of water and raised the acidity of the global oceans. And the warmer water would have had more dead zones from a lack of dissolved oxygen.

“We’re often left scratching our heads about what exactly was most harmful. Creatures adapted to colder environments would have been out of luck,” Algeo said. “So my guess is temperature change would be the No. 1 killer. Effects would exacerbated by acidification and other toxins in the environment.”

Stretching over an extended period, eruption after eruption prevented the Earth’s food chain from recovering.

“It’s not necessarily the intensity but the duration that matters,” Algeo said. “The longer this went on, the more pressure was placed on the environment.”

Likewise, the Earth was slow to recover from the disaster because the ongoing disturbances continued to wipe out biodiversity, he said.

Earth has witnessed five known mass extinctions over its 4.5 billion years.

Scientists used another elemental signature — iridium — to pin down the likely cause of the global mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. They believe an enormous meteor struck what is now Mexico.

The resulting plume of superheated earth blown into the atmosphere rained down material containing iridium that is found in the geologic record around the world.

Shen said the mercury signature provides convincing evidence that the Siberian Traps eruptions were responsible for the catastrophe. Now researchers are trying to pin down the extent of the eruptions and which environmental effects in particular were most responsible for the mass die-off, particularly for land animals and plants.

Shen said the Permian extinction could shed light on how global warming today might lead to the next mass extinction. If global warming, indeed, was responsible for the Permian die-off, what does warming portend for humans and wildlife today?

“The release of carbon into the atmosphere by human beings is similar to the situation in the Late Permian, where abundant carbon was released by the Siberian eruptions,” Shen said.

Algeo said it is cause for concern.

“A majority of biologists believe we’re at the cusp of another mass extinction — the sixth big one. I share that view, too,” Algeo said. “What we should learn is this will be serious business that will harm human interests so we should work to minimize the damage.”

People living in marginal environments such as arid deserts will suffer first. This will lead to more climate refugees around the world.

“We’re likely to see more famine and mass migration in the hardest hit places. It’s a global issue and one we should recognize and proactively deal with. It’s much easier to address these problems before they reach a crisis.”

###


The paper: (open access) Evidence for a prolonged Permian–Triassic extinction interval from global marine mercury records

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-09620-0

Abstract

The latest Permian mass extinction, the most devastating biocrisis of the Phanerozoic, has been widely attributed to eruptions of the Siberian Traps Large Igneous Province, although evidence of a direct link has been scant to date. Here, we measure mercury (Hg), assumed to reflect shifts in volcanic activity, across the Permian-Triassic boundary in ten marine sections across the Northern Hemisphere. Hg concentration peaks close to the Permian-Triassic boundary suggest coupling of biotic extinction and increased volcanic activity. Additionally, Hg isotopic data for a subset of these sections provide evidence for largely atmospheric rather than terrestrial Hg sources, further linking Hg enrichment to increased volcanic activity. Hg peaks in shallow-water sections were nearly synchronous with the end-Permian extinction horizon, while those in deep-water sections occurred tens of thousands of years before the main extinction, possibly supporting a globally diachronous biotic turnover and protracted mass extinction event.

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110 thoughts on “New evidence suggests volcanoes caused biggest mass extinction ever

  1. From the study ,I get the idea that ,If we keep on burning coal.
    We will be extinct in several thousand years/maybe?

    • It’s almost like they want it to happen, isn’t it?

      They can’t seem to talk about anything else, as if this is wishful thinking on their part, conscious or not. It’s rather sad when someone’s view is that narrow. The rest of us have plenty of other things to think about but these poor souls are locked in a track they’ve dug for themselves, and can’t see anything else.

      Just sad.

      Are they going to keep asking for money, now that they’ve made this discovery? Do they have plans for shutting off volcanoes, especially the gassiest ones? There’s a rifting even going on in the Danakil Depression, where Erta Ale sits on a triple plate boundary and is now actively emitting all those noxious volcano gases along with a huge volume of lava. The caldera fills, bubbles over and then retreats and then starts again. Won’t be long before that spreads a whole lot more. The original fissure there appeared in 2006. Have they got any plans for preventing the rifting event down the road?

      • If we really want to give them something to fixate on how about the extinction event of a massive asteroid taking out good old mother GAIA. Besides volcanic rifting Asteroids are something else they can’t do an effing thing about despite Hollywoods efforts at Science Fiction.

        You are right Sara they sound as if they have a death wish sitting around waiting for their hypothesized extinction event rather than taking a walk and enjoying the great outdoors while it is still habitable. The most factual comment made in this whole article ““We’re often left scratching our heads about what exactly was…” But they are sure we are all going to die and soon because…(usually something to do with greenhouse gases)

  2. Fascinating work and really interesting. Right up to the sixth paragraph from the end:”Shen said the Permian extinction could shed light on how global warming today might lead to the next mass extinction.” I suddenly lost interest. Presumably they had to insert the rest to justify their funding for this and future work.

    • I’m surprised the author didn’t make an appeal for the immediate adoption of the Green New Deal, which would cause a mass reduction of homo sapiens long before their Earth-greening efforts to benefit biodiversity came to fruition! The article was instructive on one hand and a complete embarrassment on the other!

    • Not just at the end; my suspicions were raised midway through with:

      The warming climate likely would have been one of the biggest culprits in the mass extinction, he said. But acid rain would have spoiled many bodies of water and raised the acidity of the global oceans.

      Whoa! Three alarmist notions in a row. Who woulda’ thunk?

      • From the press release, “… and raised the acidity of the global oceans.” It would have been more accurate to say “… and the oceans may have actually become acidic.”

  3. Three billion cubic kilometers blown into the atmosphere – but the global warming from the CO2 was responsible for most of the dying ?

    Someone please pull the other leg its got bells on it.

    Great article but weaving the climate alarmism into the narrative destroys its credibility for no good reason.

    • What I am thinking is that such outpourings must have released a lot of gasses and ejecta into the air, but traps are flood basalts, and have very low viscosity, relatively little gas and thus are not explosive, and so do not put material “high up into the air”, at least not by volcanic standards.
      And they have relatively little ash.
      Think Kilauea.
      It just flows out and runs along the ground.
      Not at all like the material that forms stratovolcanoes, which huge amounts of ash, although not exactly like the stuff that flows from mid ocean ridges and sea mount either.

    • The article claimed up to 3,000,000 km3 of ash rather than 3,000,000,000 km3.

      The problem with this is that the Siberian Traps were mostly basalt as opposed to pyroclastic in nature. We do know that basaltic eruptions can and do interact with ground water to explode. See it at Kilauea from time to time. But ash is not the primary eruptive product.

      Here’s the fun part. The Siberian Traps are listed at >2,000,000 km3 in volume. Also tied to a major extinction event. The largest LIP I can find is the Ontong – Java plateau, emplaced some 120 Ma in the Pacific. No global extinction event. It was a whopping 44,000,000 km3, or more than 22 times larger than Siberia at least in volume. The LIP Commission lists the Deccan Traps as 8,600,000 km3.

      The size of the eruption does not appear to be as important as what it puts into the atmosphere. Cheers –

  4. And if the same researchers found that the burning of fossil fuels is leading to dangerous climate change, they would be academic hacks shaking the grant money tree. Got it.

    • They are hacks for making unscientific claims without a shred of evidence. They should have stuck to the research they did do.

        • The unscientific claims;

          it was the raise in temp that caused the extinction.

          “What we should learn is this will be serious business that will harm human interests…”

          we’re at the cusp of another mass extinction — the sixth big one

  5. “A majority of biologists believe we’re at the cusp of another mass extinction — the sixth big one. I share that view, too,” Algeo said.

    I assume that, if asked, Thomas Algeo could point to the survey that shows all those biologists scientific opinions. Funny I’ve never seen any reference to this survey.

    • Whatever the case may be, opinions are not evidence.
      Especially when entire generations are being taught the same drivel.

  6. When are we going to see activists protesting against volcanoes and nature? Those bastards have murdered billions of innocent beings. When we will open our eyes to this injustice? Down with nature! Only by bringing Mother Nature to justice, we can have a truly just and safe society!

  7. Lots of conjecture and pleading based on the only observations mentioned, mercury deposits. And of course the compulsory reference to the global warming unicorn.

    • Thanks Jeff, very interesting.
      A problem with the volcanoes “dun it “ theory is why we have not seen a more regular pattern of volcano caused mass extinctions. Or are we being asked to believe in a one-off event which takes more to explain than just a large departure from “normal”? Exceptional events require exceptional proof, bit like being asked to believe CO2 suddenly driving everything after 4 billion years of not doing so. And not even basic believable evidence to support it, let alone anything exceptional.

      • Exactly. The “volcanoes cause mass extinctions” crowd wants us to believe the Earth system randomly goes haywire on its own in between the billions of years of quiescence. It’s no surprise that this junk science is spawned from the CO2 climate cult.

      • Interestingly, this quote from the abstract of the following paper says it all (note: “….but is not susceptible to falsification”. Where have we heard this before?):

        “The hypothesis that impacts are the general cause of mass extinctions has not received supporting evidence, but has not been falsified. The hypothesis that flood basalts are the general cause of mass extinctions is supported by evidence from timing, but is not susceptible to falsification.”
        https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/153110703321632480

      • The problem with volcanoes as the exclusive cause is that there are hundreds of Large Igneous Provinces (LIP) stretching back over 3 billion years. The LIP commission has a database of them. Only a few of them are concurrent with an extinction event – Deccan Traps at 65 Ma and Siberian Traps at 252 Ma being the most recent big ones. A LIP emplacement in Afar was concurrent with a relatively small extinction event around 35 Ma, the end of the Eocene. Both the Eocene and Cretaceous events had large impacts events with associated craters. There is an ongoing search for a crater concurrent with the Permian event of 252 Ma. It may or may not exist. I have wondered for a long time if life on this planet is well adapted to massive volcanic events, and needs something else, something big – impact event, close supernovae – to push it into a massive extinction event. Cheers –

        • There are also only a couple of places where a large outpouring occurred in the middle of a shield, the oldest and thickest and some of the hardest continental crust.
          Generally these areas are considered tectonically stable. Notably so.
          But there are a couple of places where a large outpouring occurred in the midst of a shield: Deccan Traps, Siberian Traps, and perhaps one more in South America, and the rift valley region of Africa, although this last one is more like the edge of the shield, where rifting is more expected.
          What would cause a tectonically stable region of crust to suddenly split open into giant long-lived crevasses right down to the mantle?
          A huge impact roughly antipodal could explain it.
          And it does not have to be precisely antipodal either.
          And mercury is a very heavy element, which is why there is more of it in the mantle than on the surface.
          There is also more of it in metallic asteroids than in the crust of the Earth.

          Candidates for where the asteroid that caused the Siberian Traps hit includes Wilkes Land, Bedout off of Australia, and an anomaly near the Falklands.
          Roughly antipodal to where Siberia was then is the area around Eastern Antarctica.
          Interestingly, that was right around when what was then one land mass began to rift, and Africa, Madagascar, India, and Australia went their separate ways.
          And there began to be open water between separate continents, and less landmass near the southern polar region.

          • I think you mean to say craton, not shield. And about half of the known LIPs have occured on cratons.

            Siberia was not a shield (exposed PC crust) at the time, it occured in the middle of the Tunguska Basin which was a shallow platform.

          • No, I meant to say what I said.
            Just going to Wikipedia since this is first section of first year geology (it was for me anyway)
            “A shield is generally a large area of exposed Precambrian crystalline igneous and high-grade metamorphic rocks that form tectonically stable areas.[1] In all cases, the age of these rocks is greater than 570 million years and sometimes dates back 2 to 3.5 billion years.[2] They have been little affected by tectonic events following the end of the Precambrian, and are relatively flat regions where mountain building, faulting, and other tectonic processes are greatly diminished compared with the activity that occurs at the margins of the shields and the boundaries between tectonic plates.
            The term shield, used to describe this type of geographic region, appears in the 1901 English translation of Eduard Suess’s Face of Earth by H. B. C. Sollas, and comes from the shape “not unlike a flat shield”[3] of the Canadian Shield which has an outline that “suggests the shape of the shields carried by soldiers in the days of hand-to-hand combat.”[4]
            Shields occur on all continents.”
            The definition of a craton is roughly the same.
            Even the USGS map of geologic provinces is pretty much exactly as it was when I first studied this stuff in High School.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shield_(geology)

          • BTW Robert,
            Sorry if that last comment was a little snippy.
            It ought to be pointed out that there is a lot of variation and overlap in the way these words are used by various authors over the years.

      • No asteroid impact this time, Jeff. The Siberian Traps are the result of the Siberian Craton over-riding a mantle plume, or hotspot. The plume melts the lower crust and produces mostly basaltic magma, which erupts mostly in flows. Some fracionation does occur and produces some more felsic (gas-rich) magma and that does produce ash eruption events. Analogs are the Deccan Plateau in India, the Columbia River Basalt flows in Oregon/Idaho, and the current event, the Hawaiian Islands. All volcanic events produce noxious gases, but the chemical signatures are quite different.

        • Deccan Traps coincide with the “extinction of the dinosaurs”.
          Not all scientists are convinced that the Chicxulub asteroid caused the end of the Cretaceous. There may have been a combination of events.

          • Deccan traps were not responsible for the extinction. The impact from the flood basalts were not global as they formed in the southern high latitudes as India migrated over a hotspot in the Indian Ocean. Their impact was regional at best.
            Besides, there is overwhelming evidence that the bolide caused the extinction, which was global, with significant impact to the lower to mid-northern latitudes with abundant evidence throughout NA and the gulf coast region, near the bolide crater…

    • I’ve seen paleo geographic reconstructions of the Perm region just before the eruptions that showed opposing subduction zones going steeply into the mantle before they were sutured together. I could envision twin cold oceanic plates pushing up a large, hot blob of mantle material in between and causing widespread fissure eruptions. No impact necessary under this scenario but if we start seeing some mineralogical evidence of a large impact at the P-T boundary, it would certainly help the case. I haven’t seen that evidence in print yet.

      • “No impact necessary under this scenario but if we start seeing some mineralogical evidence of a large impact at the P-T boundary, it would certainly help the case. I haven’t seen that evidence in print yet.”

        I’ve found a number of papers which support the evidence that a meteorite caused The Great Dying. For example:
        https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/gsa/geology/article-abstract/29/9/815/191819
        https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/gsa/geology/article-abstract/26/11/979/206812
        https://science.sciencemag.org/content/291/5508/1530
        https://science.sciencemag.org/content/302/5649/1388

        • I find two things amazing about this topic:

          1. That people still claim that there is no evidence for an impact crater at the PTB, and
          2. That people literally believe, in the 550 million year history since the Cambrian explosion, that there has only been one extraterrestrial impact large enough to cause a mass extinction.

          Occam’s razor suggests that all the mass extinctions were from extraterrestrial impacts.

        • I don’t see citation of any appreciable amounts of shocked quartz in those abstracts. Kind of tough to slam a 10 mile wide bolide into a quartz-rich crust without a lot of Stishovite being blasted around the world. Lots of tectites would also help the case.

        • Jeff, I read all four abstracts you reference and find them suggestive but not definitive. The impact evidence is substantially less than the end dinosaur/end Cretaceous event, for instance. Also, Robert, Occams Razor says that the fewer assumptions that must be made in advancing a hypothesis the more likely it will turn out to be correct, but weighing light impact evidence against plainly visible large volcanic event means Occams Razor favor the easily visible event. The Siberian Large Volcanic Provence event is the worlds largest, ergo, it possibly produced the largest extinction event. Do I know this for sure? No! Am I curious about where this discussion, and subsequent research findings take us? Yes. Are large impact events and large Volcanic Provence events climate changers? Yes.

  8. Napoleon Bonaparte: ‘M. Laplace, they tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even mentioned its Creator.’

    Laplace: ‘ Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là’. (“I had no need of that hypothesis.”)

    Seems like scientists had more integrity two hundred years ago….

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Simon_Laplace

  9. “In fact, Algeo said, the Siberian Traps eruptions spewed so much material in the air, particularly greenhouse gases, that it warmed the planet by an average of about 10 degrees centigrade.”

    So now, terrestrial volcanic eruptions induce warming which is opposite to all observations so far.

    What a deplorable bunch of bullshits.

    • In climate “science” everything is exactly 180 degrees twisted. It´s very dangerous warming, which isn´t measureable.

      So this whole threat is even more dangerous, because it´s nowhere and everywhere same time. We can´t feel it, or see it. But it is, because science.

  10. We were covered by a molten scum of rocks, bobbing on the surface like rats. Later when there was less heat these giant rock groups settled down among the land masses. During this extinct time Earth was like a steam room, and no one, not even man, could get in. However, the oceans and the sewers were simmering with a rich protein stew, and the mountains moved in to surround and protect them. They didn’t know then that living as we know it, was already taken over.”

    “Animals… without… backbones… hid from each other, or fell down. Climasaurs and oysterettes appeared as appetizers. Then came the sponges, which sucked up about ten percent of all life. Hundreds of years later, in the late Devouring Period, fish became obnoxious. Trailer bites, chiggerbytes and mosquitoes collided aimlessly in the dense gas. Finally, tiny edible plants sprang up in rows, giving birth to generations of insecticides and other, small dying creatures.”
    ~Firesign Theater, ““We Are All Bozos On This Bus”

  11. We were covered by a molten scum of rocks, bobbing on the surface like rats. Later when there was less heat these giant rock groups settled down among the land masses. During this extinct time Earth was like a steam room, and no one, not even man, could get in. However, the oceans and the sewers were simmering with a rich protein stew, and the mountains moved in to surround and protect them. They didn’t know then that living as we know it, was already taken over.”

    “Animals… without… backbones… hid from each other, or fell down. Climasaurs and oysterettes appeared as appetizers. Then came the sponges, which sucked up about ten percent of all life. Hundreds of years later, in the late Devouring Period, fish became obnoxious. Trailer bites, chiggerbytes and mosquitoes collided aimlessly in the dense gas. Finally, tiny edible plants sprang up in rows, giving birth to generations of insecticides and other, small dying creatures.”
    ~Firesign Theater, ““We Are All Bozos On This Bus”

  12. New evidence suggests volcanoes caused biggest mass extinction ever

    Not according to ‘Scooter’ and the Groaniad. It was all down to burning coal alone.

    Burger also identified a shift from heavier carbon-13 to lighter carbon-12; the latter results from burning fossil fuels.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/mar/12/burning-coal-may-have-caused-earths-worst-mass-extinction

    But it really is worse than we thought…

    Forget hundreds of thousands of years of relentless vocanic eruptions:

    Scientists are observing many of the same signs of dangerously rapid climate change today. There’s more lighter carbon-12 in the atmosphere because the increase in atmospheric carbon levels is due entirely to humans burning fossil fuels. There are an increasing number of dead zones in the oceans.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/mar/12/burning-coal-may-have-caused-earths-worst-mass-extinction

    And then the begging bowl…

    … we can’t turn away from climate change. For The Guardian, reporting on the environment is a priority. We give climate, nature and pollution stories the prominence they deserve, stories which often go unreported by others in the mainstream media. At this critical time for humanity and our planet, we are determined to inform readers about threats, consequences and solutions based on scientific facts, not political prejudice or business interests. But we need your support to grow our coverage, to travel to the remote frontlines of change and to cover vital conferences that affect us all.

    Please send money, these lies aren’t cheap.

  13. How about oxygen depletion? Many other Permian extinction studies insist on GLOBAL COOLING as a result of all the soot in the atmosphere,
    Truth of the matter, we still have no clue of what happened. Climate is too complex for us to make proper calculations at present time

  14. The answer likes in the black shales which are really exhalative (crystal ash fall tuffs to be precise) volcanics of rhyolitic composition. The stuff above is an oversimplification as fractionation of the melt is required to get the right geochemical finger print. I presented a paper on the subject back in 2001. This is an episodic event and is repeated many times throughout geological history. The USGS abandoned its black shake project.

  15. And there was me thinking that volcanic ash and dust high in the atmosphere blocked incoming solar radiation, thereby shutting down the greenhouse effect and cooling the planet. You know, like when Krakatoa blew in 1883 and cooled the planet for a couple of decades after.
    https://www.livescience.com/28186-krakatoa.html
    Oh wait. That was in the days before the IPCC changed the laws of physics.
    And nature.
    And reason.

    • I was going to comment in the same way .. humongous volcanic eruption resulted in … warming? How so? Virtually every single instance of large volcanic activity resulted in global cooling not warming.

      Did these researchers actually verify that the global temperatures increased 10 deg C in the aftermath of the erupsions 252 million years ago? I rather doubt that the granularity of the geological record from that long ago could pin down global temperatures measurable in those rocks today.

      I rather expect that these doofuses just pulled 10 deg C warming straight outa their asses.

      Whatever additional carbon entered the atmosphere as a result of these eruptions would quickly dissipate with the inevitable greening of the planet in such a carbon-rich atmosphere.

      • That happens to be the repository of most warmista information.
        And they got lots of it jammed in there, too.

    • It what now seems those blissfully innocent days when all we had to worry about ( and none of us youngsters actually did) was nuclear annihilation , we were told by our elders and betters that WW3 and the nuclear explosions would create such a global dust and ash cloud that a “nuclear winter” would result and all would perish who had not been vaporised by the bombs.
      So in actual fact , according to this article , it would have been a “nuclear summer” – which would not have sounded so bad. The politicians and the BBC were lying to us even then.

  16. Clearly, the take away message from this study is we must develop a global movement to prevent volcanic eruptions.
    It would require $ trillions to investigate mankind’s ongoing influence over volcanic activity, with mineral extraction an obvious stimulant of catastrophic volcanic events.
    Can we ask the UN to initiate a committee?

  17. This is simply junk science. These days you’ve got to actually look at the data yourself that the researchers are basing their conclusions on. Out of the whopping 12 sample sights, 3 peaked right at the PTB, 4 peaked before the boundary, and 5 peaked after the boundary.

    They also normalized Hg content to TOC. So Hg being fixated in the sediments could remain constant, yet their data would show large swings and is contingent on TOC alone.

  18. And here eye witness reports, multiple cultural legends and overwhelming evidence support the claim that the largest extinction event was a global flood.

    But I guess if we prefer a witch’s brew including sharp lamphrey-like teeth and mercury are better records of history…

    (sigh)

  19. The rise of average temperature by 10C is a guess. And so it is a guess based on a guess that warming did most of the damage during this event. I would like to know how much chlorine gas and HCl was vented into the atmosphere. I’ll bet that was unpleasant.

  20. The problem is that the extinctions started ~15 million years before the Siberian Traps volcanoes started, look at a biodiversity graph of the period. 252 mya was when the extinctions ended, it was the point where rate of extinction = rate of new species evolving.
    Secondly the Permian ice age ended around 275 mya – it preceded the volcanoes by ~23 million years, so the volcanoes did not cause the return to normal warm earth conditions.
    Oxygen depletion following the rewarming of the earth followed by anoxic oceans and the production of H2S seem far more likely explanation.

  21. I have always suspected (and still do) that massive volcanic eruptions cause mass extinctions. I am very curious if an asteroid impact could set off these huge eruptions. A large asteroid striking somewhere (70% in the oceans) send a huge shock wave through the Earth causing an area in the mantle to soften and weakening the crust (likely near the opposite side of the Earth), leading to massive eruptions (after some amount of time, not necessarily an immediate effect).

    You do not “need” an impact to create such an eruption, a massive mantle plume would work, but then where is the evidence of these? What are the mechanics that they so rarely happen, but when they do they are devastating? I like the idea of a trigger event, such as an asteroid impact to set off an already rising plume (not necessarily massive, just a plume) by semi-liquefying it (OK, turning a really hot pliable rock into a really hot more pliable rock). This allows the plume to move faster and for more of it to reach the surface before cooling so much it seals itself in.

    To test this hypothesis, one would be looking for an impact crater nearly opposite of the Siberian Traps from near the estimated beginning of the eruptions (I say near the beginning because all time estimates for this age of geologic activity is going to be plus or minus millions of years). (Try going to the opposite side of the globe using Google Earth, and look around for anything that resembles a crater under the ocean…it might surprise you but its likely an artifact of continental plate movement)

    You do not need to invoke “Greenhouse Gasses” for these events, the massive amounts of toxic gasses and eventually sulfuric acid rain would do plenty to harm ecology. Comparing this to today is so stupid it burns.

    • Robert of Texas

      You do not “need” an impact to create such an eruption, a massive mantle plume would work, but then where is the evidence of these? What are the mechanics that they so rarely happen, but when they do they are devastating?

      One theory of Iceland’s volcanic activity in the mid-Atlantic Rift (and Hiwaii’s hot spot in the middle of a continental plate as well) is that they represent the location of an asteroid impact and its subsequent plume location.

      Conveniently, the mid-ocean impact zone gets covered rapidly with ever-thicker sediment layers, then is carried sideways to a subduction zone and is buried and melted into the bottom of the continental crust . This gives only a finite time when such a crater remains easily detectable.

      • The antipodal hotspot to Iceland is Balleny. There is no really good antipodal hotspot to Hawai’i, it should be in Botswana, which is an extremely tectonically quiscent area.

        • tty

          There is no really good antipodal hotspot to Hawai’i, it should be in Botswana, which is an extremely tectonically quiscent area.

          Assuming a near-constant continental drift, where would the antipode for Hawaii’s hot spot be when it occurred? That hotspot has been pushing up lave to the sea surface since before Midway (there are 2-3 very tiny islands in the HI chain further northwest of Midway.) The rift mountains offshore of the East Africa coastline and the whole Rift valleys in east Africa itself are volcanically active. alternatively, the Indian subcontinent has collided with southern Asia – the evidence might be now underneath the Himalayan mountains. (Idle speculation and creating excuses is cheap though, isn’t it?)

          • I believe the proportion of the surface of the planet which is seafloor has been rather steadily shrinking over geologic spans of time.
            And it is still over 70% of the surface.
            So it would have been even more back then.
            And seafloor gets recycled rapidly, and is thought to have been even more rapidly formed and subducted in the past.
            So logically, most impact sites hit sea floor after blasting through miles of ocean, and hit sea floor which may be subducted, or itself was a site of a igneous outpouring.
            As for when the Hawaii hotspot formed, no one will ever know, because it traces a path of sea mounts clear back to the subduction zone at the junction of the Kuril Trench and the Aleutian Trench.
            That sea floor appears to be thought around 120 million years old:

            Check it out:
            http://www.mappery.com/maps/Pacific-Ocean-Floor-Map.jpg

            https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1999/ofr-99-0132/image115.gif

        • Hotspots seem to be fairly stationary. The Hawaiian island chain is due to the Pacific plate moving over this stationary hotspot. In the same way the hotspot that caused the Columbia River and the Snake River basalt is now under Yellowstone, or actually a bit southeast of Yellowstone.

          Incidentally the Hawaiian volcano chain stretches all the way to the Aleutian trench, but the old islands beyond Midway and Kure are just seamounts now.

          http://www.earthmodels.org/publications/science-2009-graphics/figure1a.png/image_preview

          • Exactly so, TTY.
            I doubt anyone could say how long that hot spot has existed.
            But it is at least as old as the ocean crust where the furthest of those seamounts is.
            120 million years or more.

          • I want to retract this assertion I made.
            I was thinking that the age is the sea crust is related to the age of the islands, but upon further thought and some checking, I realize now this is obviously not the case.
            The age of the sea mounts is more closely related to the speed of the movement of the ocean crust, which existed before the hotspot punched through the crust in each spot and built up a volcano.
            Midway Atoll is thought to be about 28 million years old.
            The oldest seamounts in the Emperor seamount chain is given an age of about 85 million years old.
            Reading about this made me wonder again what event caused the Pacific plate to change direction when the chain bends?
            Was it perhaps related to when the North American plate overran the northern extension of the East Pacific ridge spreading center?
            Or perhaps it is incorrect to assume the hotspot is stationary?
            Was the whole Pacific plate really moving mostly northward prior to the time that bend occurred?

            That seems to be the prevailing idea.
            https://science.sciencemag.org/content/313/5791/1281

          • BTW does someone know a way/place to read paywalled articles like the Science one I linked to just above?

    • A strikingly large proportion of hotspots do form antipodal pairs with roughly similar ages:

      Yellowstone Kerguelen
      Afar Marquesas
      Iceland Balleny
      Reunion Guadalupe
      Marion Bowie
      Amsterdam Raton
      Ross island Jan Mayen
      Crozet Cobb
      Canaries Lord Howe
      Azores Tasman

  22. The extinctions could also have been caused by the initial cooling linked to the enormous amounts of ash and aerosols injected into the atmosphere, or by the increased acidity of waters from released sulfur. If the PT temperature rise was responsible for mass extinctions, why didn’t the similar rapid warming of the later PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum) have the same result? Only a few benthic forams were lost during the PETM, and in most places, life forms flourished, including the newly emergent mammals.

  23. Well, this news creates just a little more work for the anthropogenic climate change alarmists, doesn’t it?

    They now have to demonstrate that man-made CO2 emissions are the cause of mega-volcanic events such as what occurred in the Siberian Traps some 252 million years ago . . . after all, there must not be any doubt that mankind is the predominate cause of Climate Change (TM).

    /sarc

  24. Essential question: do volcanic eruptions cause warming or cooling?
    “In fact, Algeo said, the Siberian Traps eruptions spewed so much material in the air, particularly greenhouse gases, that it warmed the planet by an average of about 10 degrees centigrade”.
    In fact, it is known that the emission of volcanic ash blocks solar radiation. which leads to a decrease in temperature. This effect far outweighs the intended effect of greenhouse gases, if one exists at all. For example, after the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano in 1883, the average summer temperature in the Northern Hemisphere dropped by 1.2 ° C.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1883_eruption_of_Krakatoa
    Algeo’s statement about the temperature increase by 10 degrees is not supported by research. Eruptions could occur during a short period, which is not recorded in modern paleontological studies.
    As for the mass death of living organisms, its obvious causes, along with the cooling, are the disappearance of vegetation due to the ground covering of volcanic ash and lack of sunlight, as well as toxic emissions into the atmosphere, especially sulphur dioxide and mercury vapor.
    So far, all known results of observations of the consequences of volcanic eruptions testify against the theory of the greenhouse effect.

    • First cooling then warming. I would expect the climate to be quite cold as long as the large eruptions lasted, to be followed by a mild warming. However we have little experience of the effects of large fissure eruptions since the only one that has happened in historical time was Laki in 1783, which was smallish as such eruptions go.

      Laki caused extensive direct toxicological damage to plants and animal far downwind due to SO2 and fluorides. Also a very hot and dry summer in Europe with “dry fog”, followed by a few cold years. I would expect similar effects, but much worse and world-wide, from the Siberian Traps.

  25. In the practice of honest science, pure conjecture would come with a warning label. Quite a bit of what is written in this piece would be so labelled with the obvious exception of the facts based on direct observation.

  26. Hmmm…. a few things to comment on in this paper.

    First, as is usually the case, all the politically correct mumbo jumbo about CAGW is only to be found in the press-release, it is mercifully absent from the paper.

    And as for thermogenic release of large amounts of CO2 from coal this paper if anything tends to disprove it since the isotope ratios of the mercury fits a volcanic origin better than an organic one.

    The really weird part is that the mercury enrichment in deep water sediments apparently occurs significantly earlier than in shallow water sediments relative to the mass-extinction interval. The only feasible explanation for this is that the extinction moved from shallow to deeper waters over a longish (30,000-100,000 years) interval, which is the opposite to what would be expected if anoxia was the cause of the extinction as they suggest.

    In short this paper does strengthen the hypothesis that the P/Tr extinction was linked to the Siberian Traps eruptions (which is hardly controversial), but there really isn’t much more to it.

    And any similarity between the paper and the press-release is entirely coincidental.

  27. When looking for antipodal impact sites, it’s important to use reconstructions of continents for the time period involved.

    For example, it seems — from what I can see — that the island of India was about antipodal to the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago. It was heading north (from the south end of Africa) at a good clip, but seems to have been in the right spot at the right time.

    India was famously the top of a hot magma plume all that time, and is known to have had substantial eruptions before the KT impact. But if that impact was antipodal, so that the shock waves were concentrated on India on the far side of the planet, what then? I think that the effect of ripping India open and producing the full on Deccan Traps would have also contributed massively to the KT extinction, along with the direct impact effects.

    So far the PT impact possibility, was the much larger Antarctic impact side (now deeply buried) antipodal to the Siberian Traps 252 MYA? Both sides have moved a lot since then.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle (@DeHavelle)

  28. Please read the paper prior to commenting.

    As noted above (tty)…”any similarity between the paper and the press-release is entirely coincidental”.

    I searched the document for CO2…here is the only “hit”: (please correct if I have missed something here…)

    “This is consistent with the synchronous increase in atmospheric Hg and CO2 during the end-Triassic crisis (footnote 15)”

    Notably absent (in the paper) was any discussion, or even inference, that modern AGW concerns have anything remotely to do with the subject of the paper.

    Pathetic.

    Is the University of Cincinnati run by the same folks as James Cook University ? /sarc

    Is the concept of introspection simply dead at these institutions?

    • “Is the concept of introspection simply dead at these institutions?”

      Short answer – yes.

      Longer answer: dead and buried under layers of PC adminstrators and their lackeys.

  29. The eruptions ignited vast deposits of coal, releasing mercury vapor high into the atmosphere.

    Mr. Layman here.
    Questions.
    There were “vast amounts of coal” 250 million years ago?
    Is there solid evidence that there were “vast amount of coal” back then or is that just a theory that fits a theory that blames burning coal for some evil?
    Mercury only comes from burning coal? Is this alchemy? Where was the mercury before there was any coal?

    • The Permian came after the Carboniferous.
      The end of the Permian was about 100 million years after the start of the Carboniferous.
      So, yes.
      Lots.
      Far more than exist now.
      The coal, and other FF for that matter, that is left now is a small fraction of what originally existed.
      Any coal that comes to the surface will be lit on fire by lighting.
      In fact it does not even need to come to the surface to be degraded or burned.
      Imagine how much coal and oil and gas a continental glacier must scrape up, while it is eroding away amounts of rock that can only be guessed at, but that we know can cut deep in some places, like where the Great Lakes are?
      In 350 million years, entire mountain ranges have been pushed up and ground down to a flat plain.
      Anthracite coal in PA was formed by soft coal being compressed and folded during mountain building, and then being exposed by erosion.

    • The coal in the Tunguska basin is still there, at least in part. There is good evidence that there was a considerable amount of heating and outgassing in connection with the Siberian Traps.
      There are also large salt deposits which may have supplied additional halogens.

  30. “The release of carbon into the atmosphere by human beings is similar to the situation in the Late Permian, where abundant carbon was released by the Siberian eruptions,” Shen said.

    He’s lying. The Permian/Triassic boundary was a low spot in geological CO2.

    The Devonian, prior to the Permian, was a time of higher CO2 and temperatures similar to or lower than the Permian/Triassic times.

  31. It is good to see that we will, at last, “get more climate refugees” as a result of the coming mass extinction caused by we humans. It is pretty boring that none, zilch, nada, zero, of the projected millions of climate refugees have shown up to date – not that this small fact has harmed the reputations of the alarmists who made those dud projections.

  32. “The eruptions propelled as much as 3 million cubic kilometers of ash high into the air over this extended period. To put that in perspective, the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington sent just 1 cubic kilometer of ash into the atmosphere, even though ash fell on car windshields as far away as Oklahoma”.

    A bit of poetic licence. How much ash do we need to put in to the atmosphere to achieve the result we see?
    3 million cubic kilometres should do it.

    Oh really, from the eruption of flood basalts? Large volumes of gas perhaps but not ash.

    Shoddy

    Shoddy,

    • Flood basalts do produce quite a lot of ash. Descriptions of the 1783 Laki eruption talk of “curtains of fire” many kilometers long and hundreds of metrers high.

    • Besides for the dubious pronouncements by this author, spoken as though factual and unquestioned, is the apples to oranges comparison of a volume of material erupted over a span of hundreds of thousands of years, with an eruption that took place in the span of a few minutes.
      Day and night difference, as is the difference in the particulars of the material erupted, and the manner of the discharge.

  33. Have a look at fig 2 in this paper from 2012.

    The main extinction is before the start of the Triassic, the heat events are after that. Its another interpretation. Oxygen isotopes, and yes I know they can be controversial.

    Lethally Hot Temperatures During the Early Triassic Greenhouse YadongSun,1,2* MichaelM.Joachimski,3 PaulB.Wignall,2 ChunboYan,1 YanlongChen,4 HaishuiJiang,1 LinaWang,1 XulongLai1

    Ciao
    John

  34. Why the need for a mass extinction singular “cause” and ignoring the overall data? We know from stratigraphic paleobiologic studies and basin reconstructions that extinction rates generally are accelerated at sequence/extinction boundaries due to the stratigraphic architecture and the nature of ecologic environmental gradients. The primary extinction at the P/T boundary occurred to shallow water marine species and benthic communities. These communities ‘living space’ changed over the final 20 my of the Permian principally due to the formation of Pangaea and associated global eustatic changes, and the removal of shallow epicontinental seas due to slightly elevated landmasses and increased ocean basin accommodation space. Eustatic lowering likely caused a destruction of shallow water communities along with changes to ocean circulation and ocean anoxia, which were likely the primary causes for extinction in the marine world (75-90% of which were already extinct or going extinct during the last 20 my of the Permian). Continental landmasses progressively moving into higher latitudes and out of the tropical zone was also likely the cause for the destruction of reef environments. The estimated 50-70% of continental species that went extinct were likely from multiple causes, possibly from the Siberian volcanic plateau (at least regionally), habitat destruction from increased climate aridity (as documented for the Permian) and the loss of wetland environments, which profoundly impacted the Late Paleozoic insect and plant fauna. The elevated Hg-levels could be from the Siberian flood basalts, but generally flood basalts lack explosive stratospheric velocity levels from their eruptions. Perhaps a nearby supernova explosion would produce an uptick in heavy metals like Hg, but remnants of such a cosmic explosion for the late Permian are lacking, similar to any destructive bolide impact (Araguainha is a crater impact close to the extinction boundary, but is much too small at 24 km to have produced any significant extinction).

  35. Mass extinction …and there wasn’t even a 1964 Cricket automatic in sight .
    Could this be the reason for the AOC vision …, Volcano’s ?
    Who knew a carbon tax will stop a 95% extinction caused by volcano’s ?
    Come to think of it this could solve a lot of problems . Debt what debt .

  36. It killed off … over hundreds of thousands of years???

    Evolution and adaptation must have taken a holiday during that time. And if not then the conclusion is: a load of cobblers.

  37. and every time again the alarm must be triggered: acidification of the oceans when the Ph value is only slightly shifting basic.

    – before this mass extinction there was already plant life on land, large-fibrous plants / wood / protect against heavy metals like Hg by rendering harmless: incorporating.

    This Hg is thrown up with the coal and wanders over the planet as a barely detectable vapor / mist cloud, sinking as last material.

    The lime from the basic shift small animals use for shells, larger “carbon entities ” = animals for skeleton construction: how else do we get the chalk cliffs of dover.

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