Study Bolsters Volcanic Theory of Ancient Permian Extinction


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According to Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the Permian Extinction, which occurred 252 million years ago, was caused by massive volcanic eruptions. Most of its changes in the environment are erased- 95 percent of marine species and 70 percent of land–the largest of five known mass extinctions.

The study present evidence on a global spike in the relatively rare chemical element nickel at the time. Scientists suggest the spike was most likely associated with volatile compounds released by nickel-rich magma.

Scientists calculated its abundance at the atomic level. They documented anomalous levels of nickel in sedimentary rocks in Hungary, Japan and India. As they previously found in Austria and northern Norway, they found that the nickel distribution was global.

At the time of Permian Extinction, the nickel peak was the volcanic upheaval in Siberia. It produced intense global warming and other environmental changes associated with the die-off. The affection remains last for 800,000 years.

New York University geologist Michael Rampino said, “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. Volcanoes also characteristically emit large amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Rampino said that explosive interactions of the magma with overlying coal deposits could have released even more carbon dioxide, as well as methane, another greenhouse gas. This could explain the intense global warming recorded in the oceans and on land.”

“The warming oceans apparently became sluggish and depleted in dissolved oxygen, contributing to the deaths of many forms of life in the sea.”

Scientists also proposed other possible causes. They considered causes including, a strike by a large extraterrestrial object, or the sudden disintegration of solid formations of methane on the seafloors.

Be that as it may, volcanism has for quite some time been the main contender. But when scientists pinned the time of the Siberian volcanism, their discovery goes continue for few years.

Coauthor Yue Cai said, “now we have not only a time link, but a chemical link.”

Sedalia Rodriguez, a co-author of the paper said, “The new finding “has exciting implications. We look forward to expanding our research on nickel and other elements to delineate the specific areas affected by this eruption. Additionally, we hope this research will contribute to determining whether an event of this magnitude is possible in the future.”


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