Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient Volcanic Eruptions Caused Global Mass Extinction

Date:
May 30, 2009
Source:
University of Leeds
Summary:
A previously unknown giant volcanic eruption that led to global mass extinction 260 million years ago has been uncovered.

Researchers believe they have uncovered evidence of a giant volcanic eruption that led to global mass extinction 260 million years ago.
Credit: iStockphoto/James Steidl

A previously unknown giant volcanic eruption that led to global mass extinction 260 million years ago has been uncovered by scientists at the University of Leeds.

Related Articles


The eruption in the Emeishan province of south-west China unleashed around half a million cubic kilometres of lava, covering an area 5 times the size of Wales, and wiping out marine life around the world.

Unusually, scientists were able to pinpoint the exact timing of the eruption and directly link it to a mass extinction event in the study published in Science. This is because the eruptions occurred in a shallow sea – meaning that the lava appears today as a distinctive layer of igneous rock sandwiched between layers of sedimentary rock containing easily datable fossilised marine life.

The layer of fossilised rock directly after the eruption shows mass extinction of different life forms, clearly linking the onset of the eruptions with a major environmental catastrophe.

The global effect of the eruption is also due to the proximity of the volcano to a shallow sea. The collision of fast flowing lava with shallow sea water caused a violent explosion at the start of the eruptions – throwing huge quantities of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere.

"When fast flowing, low viscosity magma meets shallow sea it's like throwing water into a chip pan – there's spectacular explosion producing gigantic clouds of steam," explains Professor Paul Wignall, a palaeontologist at the University of Leeds, and the lead author of the paper.

The injection of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere would have lead to massive cloud formation spreading around the world - cooling the planet and ultimately resulting in a torrent of acid rain. Scientists estimate from the fossil record that the environmental disaster happened at the start of the eruption.

"The abrupt extinction of marine life we can clearly see in the fossil record firmly links giant volcanic eruptions with global environmental catastrophe, a correlation that has often been controversial," adds Professor Wignall.

Previous studies have linked increased carbon dioxide produced by volcanic eruptions with mass extinctions. However, because of the very long term warming effect that occurs with increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (as we see with current climate change) the causal link between global environmental changes and volcanic eruptions has been hard to confirm.

This work was done in collaboration with the Chinese University of Geosciences in Wuhan and funded by a grant from the Natural Environment Research Council, UK.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leeds. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Paul B. Wignall, Yadong Sun, David P. G. Bond, Gareth Izon, Robert J. Newton, Stιphanie Vιdrine, Mike Widdowson, Jason R. Ali, Xulong Lai, Haishui Jiang, Helen Cope, and Simon H. Bottrell. Precise coincidence of explosive volcanism, mass extinction and carbon isotope fluctuations in the Middle Permian of China. Science, 2009; DOI: 10.1126/science.1171956

Cite This Page:

University of Leeds. "Ancient Volcanic Eruptions Caused Global Mass Extinction." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090528142827.htm>.
University of Leeds. (2009, May 30). Ancient Volcanic Eruptions Caused Global Mass Extinction. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090528142827.htm
University of Leeds. "Ancient Volcanic Eruptions Caused Global Mass Extinction." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090528142827.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) — The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, thanks in part to something called feedback. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) — Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Ivory Trade Boom Swamps Law Efforts

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 17, 2014) — Demand for ivory has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of African elephants and now a conservation report says the illegal trade is overwhelming efforts to enforce the law. Amy Pollock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins