Underground magma pulse triggered end-Permian extinction

Monday, July 31, 2017 - 04:32 in Earth & Climate

Geologists from the U.S. Geological Survey and MIT have homed in on the precise event that set off the end-Permian extinction, Earth’s most devastating mass extinction, which killed off 90 percent of marine organisms and 75 percent of life on land approximately 252 million years ago. In a paper published today in Nature Communications, the team reports that about 251.9 million years ago, a huge pulse of magma rose up through the Earth, in a region that today is known as the Siberian Traps. Some of this molten liquid stopped short of erupting onto the surface and instead spread out beneath the Earth’s shallow crust, creating a vast network of rock stretching across almost 1 million square miles. As the subsurface magma crystallized into geologic formations called sills, it heated the surrounding carbon-rich sediments and rapidly released into the atmosphere a tremendous volume of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases. “This first...

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