Posted by: JohnnyRook | August 28, 2008

Does “The Great Dying” Hold a Hint of Our Future?

Around 251 million years ago, 95% of the earth’s marine species and 85% of terrestrial species disappeared in the Permian-Triassic Mass Extinctions, or as it is more colloquially known, The Great Dying. Now the National Science Foundation is funding an international research team of 28 scientists from 7 countries to figure out why.

Scientists involved in the research believe that the extinctions were caused by:

… a cascade of events that began with a monstrous outpouring of hot, reeking lava in Siberia. Repeated floods of lava released massive amounts of carbon dioxide, which produced a runaway greenhouse effect, oxygen-starved oceans and a poisoned atmosphere.

The lava gushed out for a million years creating slabs of flood basalt known as the Siberian Traps.

Siberian Traps 1

Photos above and below from NASA’s Earth Observatory

The lava from the Siberian Traps sent huge quantities of carbon dioxide and methane (natural gas) into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases caused an epic spell of global warming. Toxic acid rain drizzled from the sky, and the ozone shield in the atmosphere thinned, letting deadly ultra-violet radiation pass through.

Siberian Traps 2

The events of 252 million years ago may tell us something about our own future if we do not take measures to halt Climaticide.

“The end-Permian catastrophe is an extreme version of the consequences of global warming, said Lee Kump, a geoscientist at The Pennsylvania State University. “It reminds us that there are unexpected consequences of CO2 buildup, and these can be quite dire, indeed.”

The lessons of the P-T massacre are “directly applicable to the present,” said John Isbell, a geoscientist at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. He said the world today is in danger of exceeding a CO2 “threshold” that could set off an environmental upheaval as great as the one 251 million years ago.

Isbell said CO2 levels in the atmosphere at the time of the P-T catastrophe reached 1,000 to 1,500 parts per million (ppm), far higher than today’s level of 385 ppm. (That means there are 385 carbon dioxide molecules for every 1 million total molecules in the atmosphere.)

CO2 levels are now rising by 2 ppm a year, and that’s expected to accelerate to 3 ppm a year. If carbon emissions aren’t reduced, some researchers fear that by the end of the next century, the CO2 level could approach what it was during the P-T period.

h/t to a gnostic at Daily Kos



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