“Volcanic Winter” contributed to environmental disaster 250 million years ago

(ORDO NEWS) — A team of scientists have identified an additional force that likely contributed to the mass extinction 250 million years ago. Analysis of minerals in southern China showed that volcanic eruptions caused a “volcanic winter” that dramatically lowered Earth‘s temperature – a change that added to the environmental impacts caused by other events of the time.

The study, published in Science Advances, examines the Permian Massive Extinction (EPME), the worst extinction in the past 500 million years, wiping out 80 to 90 percent of species on land and at sea.

“As we look more closely at the geological data for the time of the great extinction, we conclude that the global ecological catastrophe of the late Permian period may have had multiple causes among marine and non-marine species,” says Michael Rampino, professor of the Department of Biology at New York university and one of the authors of the article.

For decades, scientists have figured out what could have caused this global ecological catastrophe, and many have pointed to the spread of huge lava flows through the so-called Siberian ladder – a large region of volcanic rocks in the Russian province of Siberia. These eruptions have caused environmental stresses, including severe global warming due to volcanic carbon dioxide emissions and an associated decrease in the oxygen saturation of ocean waters – the latter has led to the suffocation of marine life.

The Science Advances team of more than two dozen researchers, including scientists from Nanjing University of China and the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, as well as the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and Montclair State University, looked at other factors that may have contributed to graduation. Permian period, which lasted from 300 to 250 million years ago.

In particular, they found deposits of minerals and related substances – in particular, copper and mercury – on land in the southern China region, the age of which coincided with the end of the Permian mass extinction in non-marine areas. In particular, these deposits were marked by anomalies in composition, probably due to sulfur-rich emissions from nearby volcanic eruptions – they were covered with layers of volcanic ash.

“Atmospheric sulfuric acid aerosols from the eruptions may have been responsible for the rapid global cooling of several degrees prior to the sharp warming seen at the end of the Permian mass extinction period,” explains Rampino.

The results of the study by the team of scientists indicate that eruptions in the Siberian trap were not the only cause of the massive Permian extinction, and that the ecological consequences of eruptions in southern China and elsewhere may have played an important role in the extinction of dozens of species.

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