A new study by scientists has shown that the “volcanic winter” may have contributed to the environmental disaster that occurred 250 million years ago.
Scientists have identified a new, additional cause of the massive Permian extinction, which occurred 250 million years ago. Analysis of minerals in southern China showed that volcanic eruptions caused a “volcanic winter.” She sharply lowered the temperature of the Earth – this aggravated the environmental effects caused by other natural phenomena of that time.
In a study published in the journal Science Advances, scientists looked at the mass extinction at the end of the Permian. It has become the most serious event of its kind in the last 500 million years, and has wiped out 80% to 90% of species on land and at sea.
Scientists have been looking for the reasons for this massive death of animals for a long time. However, it is known that the Permian extinction coincided in time with the outpouring of lava in the area of the Siberian traps.
Traps are, in fact, volcanoes of cyclopean sizes. During their eruptions, so much lava comes to the surface that it covers a significant part of the mainland. Traps have neither a vent, nor even a pronounced center – flows of liquid lava pour from many cracks and form relatively flat basalt rocks that form ledges or traps. These eruptions have caused stress on the environment, including severe global warming due to volcanic emissions of carbon dioxide and the associated decrease in the oxygenation of ocean waters, causing marine life to suffocate.
In the new study, an international team of American and Chinese scientists looked at other factors that may have contributed to the extinction at the end of the Permian. In particular, they discovered onshore mineral deposits in the South China region and associated deposits, in particular copper and mercury. Their age coincided with the mass extinction at the end of the Permian period on land. The deposits are characterized by anomalous composition. Scientists have suggested that it is all about sulfur-rich volcanic ash emissions.
It was the large amount of sulfuric acid in the atmosphere after volcanic eruptions that could lead to rapid climate change, which led to the fact that many species became extinct on the planet.