Archive for November 29th, 2018

Don’t Underestimate Earth’s Violence: Permian Mass Extinction Boosted By Ozone Destroying Gases

November 29, 2018

This is a violent universe. We are a violent species making peace in a violent universe, and it’s not easy. Even those who loudly advocate non-violence often end up feeding even more violence than if they had stayed silent. An example is the US peaceniks in the 1930s, who, anxious to appease the fascists and the gods of war, they claimed, refused entry to millions of refugees… including Anne Frank… Who all died (excuses anybody?) 

As violence is omnipresent and can’t be avoided, the next best thing is to understand it, so one can mitigate it. With floods of mind to spill like lava all over the universe… The first thing to understand is that violence is complicated, finely tuned (as demonstrated by the fact Earth itself goes at 30 kilometers per second along her orbit…)

I have argued that one of the secrets of the success of Earth’s biosphere is its powerful nuclear reactor, churning a giant iron ocean below our feet. It brings up a magnetic shield, and a CO2 burying mechanism, let alone nutrient providing volcanism. biological niches instigator…

Heat transfer from the interior of the intelligence giving planet is not smooth: it happens as catastrophic LIPs, Large Igneous Provinces, enormous eruptions which can last several million years, and create continent sized lava flows, miles thick.

It has long been obvious Siberian hyper volcanism caused the worst mass extinction:…/21/trapped-by-super-tr…/

The new research finding: a massive release of halogens by the eruption plume, made things worse from disappearance of ozone, thus an extreme UV mutagenicity & sterilization. Same for dinosaurs (I say)!

Even nowadays, 250 million years later the Siberian Traps are immensely impressive: everything in the picture above erupted in a cataclysm.


“End-Permian extinction amplified by plume-induced release of recycled lithospheric volatiles

Magmatic volatile release to the atmosphere can lead to climatic changes and substantial environmental degradation including the production of acid rain, ocean acidification and ozone depletion, potentially resulting in the collapse of the biosphere. The largest recorded mass extinction in Earth’s history occurred at the end of the Permian, coinciding with the emplacement of the Siberian large igneous province, suggesting that large-scale magmatism is a key driver of global environmental change. However, the source and nature of volatiles in the Siberian large igneous province remain contentious. Here we present halo-gen compositions of sub-continental lithospheric mantle xenoliths emplaced before and after the eruption of the Siberian flood basalts. We show that the Siberian lithosphere is massively enriched in halogens from the infiltration of subducted seawater-derived volatiles and that a considerable amount (up to 70%) of lithospheric halogens are assimilated into the plume and released to the atmosphere during emplacement. Plume–lithosphere interaction is therefore a key process control-ling the volatile content of large igneous provinces and thus the extent of environmental crises, leading to mass extinctions during their emplacement.”

Siberian Traps today. Putorana-Taymir peninsula. Imagine all this as it was 250 million years ago: red-hot lava… Kilometers thick

The demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention. However an even more disastrous event called “the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all species of life on the planet. (Yes, it seems those extinction tend to happen every 200 million years, because blobs come up cyclically, as in a well-named “lava lamp”.)

The cause of the extinction was a massive volcanic eruption in what is contemporary Siberia in Russia, known as the “Siberian flood basalts.” What’s remarkable, the eruptions lasted for about one million years. (The eruption which caused the demise of dinosaurs lasted much longer, but peaked around the demise of these type of beasts, and many other types, such as ammonites… See my link above)

The recent study’s lead author Michael Broadley, a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Petrographic and Geochemical Research in Vandœuvre-lès-Nancy, France, observed: “The scale of this extinction was so incredible that scientists have often wondered what made the Siberian Flood Basalts so much more deadly than other similar eruptions”. I had the same objection brought up to me by a top paleontologist. This friend of mine favored the (energetically nonsensical) asteroid collision explanation of the demise of the dinosaurs. It is usually claimed that the LIP of the Cretaceous was not the largest… When, actually, the two places on Earth with giant LIP in full evidence are the Siberian Traps and the Deccan Traps…

Siberian Traps mapped. In violet: lava, In red: tuff (ashes, more or less crystallized together). 2 million square kilometers, roughly Western Europe, in area, and up to 4 million cubic kilometers… That is 4,000 times more voluminous than the largest asteroid imaginable crossing Earth’s orbit. 4,000 times the volume is the problem with asteroid theories of extinctions… Moreover, those 4,000,000 cubic kilometers of lava of the Traps were accompanied of much larger volumes of hot gases…. Same reasoning holds for the “dinosaur” extinction, the KT boundary… 

The Permian extinction affected not only larger animals, decimating about 70 percent of their species, but also killed off 96 percent of the world’s marine life, as well as countless insects. It inflicted such a loss of biodiversity that it took another 10 million years for the ecosystem to bounce back. Interestingly, large species which could burrow survived… and soon their descendants became “mammalian reptiles”… appearing dozens of millions of years before dinosaurs…

The explanation in plain language? The geologists aver that the instigated volcanic eruption was not just massive, but the plume carried massive quantities of halogen gases which destroyed the Earth’s ozone layer at the time. They found this by analyzing the composition of the lithosphere — the hard outer part of the planet, which includes the crust and the upper mantle. Before the Siberian Flood Basalts happened, the Siberian lithosphere featured much chlorine, bromine, and iodine, all chemical elements from the halogen group. Notably, breathing gas containing these elements is highly toxic and will usually result in death. But after the volcanic eruption, these elements seemingly vanished.

“We concluded that the large reservoir of halogens that was stored in the Siberian lithosphere was sent into the earth’s atmosphere during the volcanic explosion, effectively destroying the ozone layer at the time and contributing to the mass extinction,” Broadley elaborated.

Something similar happened with the Cretaceous extinction. As the time before last, animals which could burrow tended to survive… So did those with high metabolism, and the capacity to keep warm, as mammals and birds, or to lay supine and hibernate (crocs, turtles, snakes, etc.) Indeed at the end of the Cretaceous, temperatures collapsed (how the polar dinosaurs, who could survive cold winters, disappeared is probably a tale of its own… not yet told…)


It’s fashionable to whine we humans are violent beasts. Sure. Yes, indeed. So what? We can leave our dent on this hyper violent universe, precisely because we, too, can be violent. Yes, covering the planet with agriculture is violent (many hate the new Brazilian president, just because he dares to want to do what North Americans and Europeans long did to their own continents; devastate the biosphere to cultivate their gardens).

Yes we kill and eat animals (and may not need to do this much longer). This is how we rose. So here we are, our growing minds having been well fed by enormous quantities of animal vitamins, fat and proteins. And we are starting to understand what more and more all means. To do better than Traps and their LIPs, we need to be more deliberate. That’s called wisdom. We can only brandish our own plumes if we are smart… And the aim of all this human activity, this human violence onto the universe? Not to flood continents with lava, but the universe, with mind.

Patrice Ayme