Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to a new study, vast quantities of burning coal contributed to the Permo-Triassic Extinction, which killed 70% of all vertebrate species.
Coal-burning in Siberia after volcanic eruption led to climate change 250 million years ago
Date:June 16, 2020
Source: Arizona State University
Summary: A team of researchers has provided the first ever direct evidence that extensive coal burning in Siberia is a cause of the Permo-Triassic Extinction, the Earth’s most severe extinction event.
A team of researchers led by Arizona State University (ASU) School of Earth and Space Exploration professor Lindy Elkins-Tanton has provided the first ever direct evidence that extensive coal burning in Siberia is a cause of the Permo-Triassic Extinction, the Earth’s most severe extinction event. The results of their study have been recently published in the journal Geology.
For this study, the international team led by Elkins-Tanton focused on the volcaniclastic rocks (rocks created by explosive volcanic eruptions) of the Siberian Traps, a region of volcanic rock in Russia. The massive eruptive event that formed the traps is one of the largest known volcanic events in the last 500 million years. The eruptions continued for roughly two million years and spanned the Permian-Triassic boundary. Today, the area is covered by about three million square miles of basaltic rock.
This is ideal ground for researchers seeking an understanding of the Permo-Triassic extinction event, which affected all life on Earth approximately 252 million years ago. During this event, up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species became extinct.
Calculations of sea water temperature indicate that at the peak of the extinction, the Earth underwent lethally hot global warming, in which equatorial ocean temperatures exceeded 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It took millions of years for ecosystems to be re-established and for species to recover.
…Read more: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/06/200616135818.htm
The abstract of the study;
RESEARCH ARTICLE| JUNE 12, 2020
Field evidence for coal combustion links the 252 Ma Siberian Traps with global carbon disruption
The Permian-Triassic extinction was the most severe in Earth history. The Siberian Traps eruptions are strongly implicated in the global atmospheric changes that likely drove the extinction. A sharp negative carbon isotope excursion coincides within geochronological uncertainty with the oldest dated rocks from the Norilsk section of the Siberian flood basalts. We focused on the voluminous volcaniclastic rocks of the Siberian Traps, relatively unstudied as potential carriers of carbon-bearing gases. Over six field seasons we collected rocks from across the Siberian platform, and we show here the first direct evidence that the earliest eruptions in the southern part of the province burned large volumes of a combination of vegetation and coal. We demonstrate that the volume and composition of organic matter interacting with magmas may explain the global carbon isotope signal and may have significantly driven the extinction.Read more: https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/gsa/geology/article/doi/10.1130/G47365.1/587319/Field-evidence-for-coal-combustion-links-the-252
The study estimates 6,000-10,000 Gt of carbon was burned. Global production of coal is around 8Gt, so we have a little way to go to catch up with the estimated Permian-Triassic burn.