Posts Tagged ‘Siberian Traps’

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…

https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/life-giving-nuclear-earth-reactor/

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:

https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/…/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.

See: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-018-0215-4

“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

 

TRAPPED BY SUPER TRAPS

November 21, 2009

CO2 AND SO2 (From Giant Volcanism) KILLED DINOSAURS. ARE WE NEXT?

***

In a nutshell: Contrarily to what is conveniently believed in the USA, the extinction of the dinosaurs was probably NOT caused by a giant impact from an asteroid, or comet. The impact was NOT explosive enough, not poisonous enough, nor cooling enough.

What killed the dinosaurs was super giant volcanism, a type that happens every 200 million years or so, the SUPER TRAPS. Super Traps correspond to catastrophic Earth core cooling events: giant burps from Vulcan itself. The most extravagant violence of the Deccan Super Traps 65 million years ago, happened within 300,000 years of the Yucatan impact (a sheer coincidence, as we will see). The fabulous extinction of 250 million years ago was caused by the even more gigantic Siberian Super Traps, and so on.

Super Traps offer a convenient model for the present greenhouse catastrophe. CARBON BURNING BEHAVES LIKE A MAN MADE SUPER TRAPS.

(No wonder that US scientists do not want super traps to have caused mass extinctions: it is not cool to be the bearer of extinction news, and attribute it to something that made their private and public sponsors rich!)

***

Introduction and abstract: SUPER TRAPS DID IT.

The disappearance of dinosaurs (and many related species) was NOT caused by an impact with a celestial body, I claim (although, clearly, that did not help!).

There was a sizable impact, true, around that time, but although it sadly caused the death of many, it is probably completely irrelevant to the total disappearance of so many species down to the last survivor, worldwide. How do you cool the planet for millions of years, with an object just a few miles across?

Well, you don’t. Still Earth cooled for millions of years afterwards.

The massive Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) extinction, just as the even more massive Permian-Trias (P-T) extinction, and all other massive extinctions of the last half billion years, were caused by a super massive volcanic event, a super giant blob of magma erupting directly from the boundary of the core of planet Earth (“lava lamp” style).

Such events are rare, every 200 million years or so, and are causality related to the Earth’s dynamo (magnetic records show). We call such super giant eruptions SUPER TRAPS (by contrast to smaller traps, caused by smaller and shallower plumes of magma, such as the most recent one, the Columbia event of 15 million years ago; those smaller traps are too small for worldwide extinctions).

SUPER TRAPS kill worldwide, and durably, by hyper massive infusions of SO2 (Sulfur Dioxide) and CO2 (Carbon Dioxide). So they provide an excellent model for the present anthropogenic CARBON BURNING CATASTROPHE (also known by one of its effects, “Global Warming”).

SUPER TRAPS provide an excellent model for what would happen if one injected the atmosphere with enough SO2. That, unbelievably, some American scientists, apparently not satisfied with the CO2 their country injects already, propose to do. They think it’s “cool“. Time for them to learn something new, from the past.

The present behavior of mankind smacks of the disappearance of dinosaurs, and other superb species depicted below.

It’s taken for granted in the USA that a bolide which crashed in Yucatan, Chicxulub, caused it.

This is convenient, be it only because Chicxulub smacks of the typical act of God, and the USA loves to believe in God: God worship, God trusting beats going to school, any day, and being responsible of one’s acts.

As I will show, the convenience goes beyond divine intervention: to see what really happened during the Super Traps eruption is all too reminiscent of the present burning all-the-carbon-that-ever-was catastrophe. The Super Traps catastrophes force to study the same mechanisms that are at play presently, in what may soon turn into a man-made hell.

There is overwhelming evidence that the massive extinction was not caused by an impact. To start with, the mathematics of the explosion are against having enough power to cause such a massacre, from that brutal excavation alone. Instead, another explanation offers itself, and that one keeps on giving, because it explains even more spectacular extinctions.

How do we know that super volcanism, the VOLCANISM OF SUPER TRAPS, on an unimaginably violent scale, bubbling straight up from Earth’s core, is the culprit of MASS EXTINCTIONS?

As I will show, a super traps eruption is a biosphere nightmare and catastrophe that constitutes, in several ways, a model for the sort of biosphere destruction we are presently engaged in. WE ARE GETTING TRAPPED IN MAN MADE SUPER TRAPS…

The impact theory has turned to comedy. To make the impact work nevertheless, in spite of its puny aspect, the more it has become obvious that it does not work at all. Fast food for thought seems an American tendency, a resultant of a school system that favors consensus (the way of the gregarious lemming) rather than argument (the way of the creative thinker). To demolish the impact theory can be done in a single argument: explosive power. It came from below, not above. But a reminder first on the impact theory of the disappearance of dinosaurs and their colleagues.

***

THE IMPACT THEORY IN A FRIVOLOUS LIGHT:

In the USA, a while back, Walter Alvarez, a geologist at UC Berkeley, went to see his dad, physics Nobel Laureate Luis Alvarez, up at LBL on the hill, and asked him how he could prove that dinosaurs disappeared because they had been struck by an asteroid. Alvarez junior wanted a proof of impact. Alvarez senior suggested to look at iridium, an element rare in Earth’s crust, but frequent in meteorites, he said. Notice the concept of “Earth crust” (= “lithosphere”): our entire argument is going to be that Earth is not just a crust, something that escaped the unconditional partisans of the space rock impacting the neighborhood.

Sure enough, an iridium layer was found, about 65 million years old, when the dinosaurs and other most advanced life forms suddenly vanished, and so the Alvarez team proclaimed victory: a massive asteroid impact had caused it, they said. (But all they had truly found, a certain and significant discovery, was more iridium than normal, in a layer!)

Then geologists proceeded to look for a crater. One was conveniently found, of just the right age, or so it looked at the time, in the records of geologists working for oil companies, in Yucatan… in one of the world’s top tourist areas. The popularity of Yucatan among geologists richly endowed with grants, became undisputed. (There are more recent impacts in Siberia, possibly less popular because they are adorned with fewer coconut trees in winter, without nice hotels at the ready to provide the weary academics with rest and relaxation. Besides, they… caused no extinctions.)

The Yucatan crater, soon dubbed the Chicxulub crater, is located near the town of the same name. Conveniently, Chicxulub is the rough translation of the Mayan for “tail of the devil”. The crater is 180 kilometers (110 mi) in diameter, making Chicxulub one of the largest confirmed impact structures in the world; the impacting bolide that formed the crater was up to 10 km (6 mi) in diameter. So far, so good.

***

THE CHICXULUB BOLIDE THAT STRUCK YUCATAN:

clip_image001

clip_image002

Radar topography reveals the 180 kilometer (112 mi) diameter ring of the crater.

***

IRIDIUM: A PROOF WITH A GIANT LOOPHOLE:

Magnanimously, I will not insinuate that finding an impact in a tourist area is a measure of scientific bias. But to assume that an iridium layer can only be produced by a bolide is a grave logical mistake. Before deciding that something caused something else, one has to eliminate all other blatant alternative causes of that same something else. This, the Alvarez team did not do. It turns out that the Reunion volcano and the Hawai’i volcano both emit gases and dust enriched in hexafluoride of IRIDIUM.

These volcanoes are very special, especially the one of Reunion island, and we accuse it to be the real tail of the devil. Hawai’i is known as the Earth’s tallest mountain, relative to its basis (Hawai’i stands more than 10,000 meters above the sea floor it rises from) and the Reunion island is not far behind. Volcanically speaking, the Hawaiian volcano arises from a HOTSPOT (or “plume”). Hawai’i’s hotspot is smaller than the Reunion hotspot, geophysically and historically speaking. The Reunion hotspot gave rise to a volcanic ensemble that, viewed in its entirety, is probably the world’s most impressive, in the last 250 million years. It disintegrated part of India, and sliced right through a mid oceanic ridge. But there is more.

The Alvarez iridium rich layer, their proof of the importance of the bolide’s impact, is only a few centimeters thick around most of the planet, and upon that thin evidence, the elation of the partisans of the impact rested. When and where the Reunion super hotspot exploded in its maximal fury, the iridium rich layer is a METER THICK. On this observation alone, the case should already be closed: Reunion did it, not Chicxulub. But I will pursue, because many lessons are therein revealed. And many independent arguments will be made. Contemplating an eruption worth 1,000 to 10,000 Chicxulubs is instructive. Let’s contemplate:

clip_image003

The 1,200-m-thick exposed section through the Deccan basalt pile at Mahabaleshwar, Sahyadri (Western Ghats) region. Grand! Photo by Hetu Sheth.

The Deccan Super Traps are really, really big, and very thick: this is just a tini tiny sample… The present area of directly observable lava flows is estimated to be around 512,000 km2 (197,684 sq mi). That is about the size of California, and just a fraction of the total mayhem. Some lava flows are 800 kilometer long (they are the longest on Earth, and were created in a few days).

***

COULD CHICXULUB HAVE CAUSED THE EXTINCTION?

The Chicxulub bolide penetrated the earth, and transformed its kinetic energy into heat. It became gaseous, and the gas exploded with immense force. How much? Well, Chicxulub had a volume of roughly 400 cubic kilometers. Very generously, one can suppose that it volatilized ten times its own volume in Earth’s rock (assuming, once again generously, an impact at a maximal 40 kilometers per second). So one ends up with 4,000 cubic kilometers of disintegrated, volatized rock.

What the Chicxulub partisans claim is that these exploding 4,000 cubic kilometers of rock killed the dinosaurs, down to the last one. Of course, it would be an immense massacre, if it happened today, and most large animals would die. Most of humankind would die. But exterminating species is another matter entirely.

***

By the way, Chicxulub did not just kill the dinosaurs, supposing it did. It would have also killed all the Plesiosaurs, Pliosaurs, and Mosasaurs, which were highly successful sea reptiles:

clip_image004

(Typical Plesiosaurs on top, Pliosaur below, Mosasaur at the bottom.)

That deep fact puts the impact under water, logically speaking: the sea reptiles could endure colder temperatures, and they were protected from transient heat. Now the impact partisans argue that the dust of the impact, and the smoke of thousands of fires (started by re-entering incandescent material: tektites) caused a “nuclear winter”, and very cold temperatures. But the sea reptiles knew cold and dark (see picture above). Obviously something else decimated them to the last.

After the sea reptiles were exterminated, it took ten million years for sea mammals to re-enter the sea. Obviously, the condition of the sea was no good for very long. What could have caused badness to perpetuate itself for so long?

***

The Pterosaurs, the most accomplished fliers that ever were, also went extinct, at the same time as the dinosaurs and the sea reptiles:

clip_image006

Size comparison of the two known Quetzalcoatlus species and a human being. (Some have said Quetzalcoatlus was a bit smaller...)

By the way, such enormous sizes are completely impossible for birds. The Pterosaurs used evolutionary tricks the avian dinosaurs known as birds never stumbled upon (such as variable geometry inflatable surfaces). Thus the largest flying Pterosaurs were at least ten times heavier than the largest flying birds (maybe 25 times heavier).

How could such incredibly superior creatures disappear? Just one hit from a bolide? 4,000 cubic kilometers of rock thrown about in a minute did it? All around the planet? Down to the last eggs? For creatures who were, it seems, partly carrion eaters, as some birds of prey are nowadays? And why did the birds survive, with a great wealth of species preserved?

(After the dinosaurs were killed, there was an age of birds on land; meanwhile, carnivorous mammals entered the sea, now that the sea reptiles were gone: the first whales appeared within ten million years.)

***

WHAT KILLED THE DINOSAURS WAS THE COOLING OF THE CLIMATE, NOT THE BIG SPACE ROCK:

Now, of course, in the beginning, when the solar system was young, there were many enormous impacts. It is probable that life started several times on Mars, Earth and Venus, and got extinguished after giant impacts. And that life (bacteria) may have been thrown from one planet to another where a previous impact had extinguished it. One such impact, by a Mars sized planet, melted all of Earth, and the debris thrown in Earth orbit coalesced to form the Moon. Thereafter, Venusian or Martian life probably conquered Earth after it had cooled enough.

An impact with a big comet or asteroid could have caused a massive extinction: such objects can be 40 kilometers across, with 100 times the mass, and destruction of Chicxulub (the comet Hale-Bopp of 1997 had a diameter of at least 35 kms, and passed at 52 kilometers per second, giving it an explosive capability of 4.4 x 109 megatons, about 44 times the estimated energy of the K-T Chicxulub event).

Although apocalyptic, the Chicxulub bolide was in no way that enormous, that it could have wiped out all advanced life on Earth. And the fact is, the K-T extinction event wiped out only selected advanced animals, namely all those resembling dinosaurs.

Why? My answer: because dinosaurs were adapted to a warm tropical world

There were polar dinosaurs, when the poles were … warm, which they were until the end of the Cretaceous, precisely.

There is independent biological evidence, from closely looking at their respiratory systems, that dinosaurs did not have the advanced temperature regulation that birds (= avian dinosaurs) and mammals had (there were plenty of mammals under the “reign” of the dinosaurs, and they were evolving: antelopes differentiated before the end of the Cretaceous).

So the dinosaurs were not adapted to serious, even transient cooling. That’s why they died, and why mammals and birds, and animals that could burrow in mud or soil (turtles, snakes, crocs, lizards) did not.

***

DINOSAURS DID NOT LIKE IT COOL:

Because the fact is, around the time when the dinosaurs died, the climate cooled down very seriously. And not just at the poles.

clip_image008

Notice the COLLAPSE OF TEMPERATURE AT THE TIME WHEN DINOSAURS DISAPPEAR: IT’S THE FALL OFF THE GIANT PEAK ON THE LEFT (2/3 of the way into the “K”, “K” being for Cretaceous, from the German “Kreide” for chalk a translation of the French-Latin for chalk).

Now, of course, the partisans of the bolide impact then claimed that the bolide, which obviously did not roast most animals, fabricated a very violent winter (a sort of “nuclear winter”). The idea is that a lot of material was up in the air, obscuring the sun, and so it became very cold, etc…

Unfortunately for this simplistic little explanation, it does not explain why the sea dinosaurs got so cold they died off, just because of a cloud deck for a few months: the ocean has a millennial thermal inertia. (The ocean takes a 1,000 years to change temps drastically.)

Then the impact partisans went on a whole gymnastic to boost the damage they claimed the impact did, asserting that it struck in a very special place, which would have made a special cloud…

***

THE REAL CULPRIT OF THE DEMISE OF DINOSAURS. THE DECCAN SUPER TRAPS:

The word “Traps” means big layered rock, and is of Scandinavian origin. The Deccan Traps, one of the largest such “traps” formed between 60 and 68 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous era. The bulk of the volcanic events occurred at the Western Ghats (near Mumbai) some 65 million years ago. This series of extraordinary eruptions may have lasted fewer than 30,000 years in total (as paleomagnetism reveals).

Before the Deccan Traps region was reduced to its current size by erosion and the drift and partial disintegration of India, the original area covered by the lava flows of basalt was of the order of 1.5 million km², approximately half the size of modern India. On a depth of 3,000 meters. That’s around 5 million cubic kilometers. Or 1,000 times the total imaginable maximal ejecta from Chicxulub.

Now remember, the ejecta from Chicxulub, ten times the mass of the bolide itself, was mostly made of rock, some of it incandescent, capable of starting fires, thousands of kilometers away, after going ballistic through space. But some of the ejecta was just plain rock and dirt, at normal temperature (that’s how impacts throw bacteria from planet to planet).

In any case, the Chicxulub ejecta was just rock, and mostly Earth’s own lithospheric rock (surface rocks, in other words). No big deal, this Chicxulub: a big excavation, gone nuts.

The Deccan traps were something all together different. We are not just talking liquid rock. When a volcano erupts, few people and animals die swimming in lava flows.

The most lethal, and far ranging part of a volcanic eruption, pertains to its gases. The gases are what propel the lava; there are always plenty. What I claim is that the gases released in the Deccan Traps caused the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event (which included the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs). Chicxulub did not have such gases associated to itself. Not at all. The real devil, as everybody knows, smells of sulfur. Reunion has sulfur. The bolide had none.

***

CRAZY VOLCANIC GASES. EXAMPLE: THE LAKI ERUPTION IN ICELAND, SUMMER 1783.

During the Laki eruption, 15 cubic kilometers of lava came out of a meek 10 kilometers long fissure (now a few cute small lichen covered innocent looking cones can be observed along it). But gases, with a lot of sulfur therein, went all the way to Europe, hanging around ominously. The Laki produced up to an astounding 6 million tons of SO2 (Sulfur dioxide), per DAY. The temperatures went crazy in Europe: hot, then cold. For months.

Besides human industry and volcanoes, there are no sources of SO2 in nature. The excess mortality in Europe due to Laki seems to have been around 200,000 dead! From the gases. 200,000 dead from a small volcano thousands of kilometers away, having a small eruption.

The point is that the Deccan Traps were of a similar type to Laki, just way, way, worse. Iceland is above a hot spot, besides being astride the mid Atlantic ridge. Hawai’i is another example of hot spot. The Reunion hotspot is still something else.

***

EARTH’S VOLCANISM ABSTRACT:

Volcanism is how the Earth cools down. Cooling happens in four ways (my own classification):

a) Conventional volcanoes. (Typically magma formed from light elements in a subduction zone.)

b) Plate tectonics. (Plates are the outside, cooling part of giant convection cells of Earth’s mantle. The plates cool as they are exposed to the atmosphere and space.)

c) Hot spots. (Hot material coming up through the mantle, as in a lava lamp. examples: Hawai’i, Yellowstone, many island chains.)

d) Super hotspots. (Same as hot spots, just so big they come straight from Earth’s own core.)

Thus the earth functions just as a boiling pot of a very thick soup. In such a pot, there are two ways heat is conducted from the bottom to the top: convection cells, and big bubbles coming up, straight through the whole mess (a problem heating tomato sauce in a microwave oven). The Deccan traps are of the later type.

Convection = Plate tectonics, Big Bubbles = Hotspots. Hawai’i is a hotspot, so is Easter island, Juan Fernandez island, Tristan da Cunha island, Yellowstone, etc… The hotspots are deeper in origin than the convection cells of plate tectonics, and they tend not to move that much relative to each other: the plates move above them (as the Pacific plate above the Hawai’i hotspot, at about 7 centimeters per year towards the north west).

Differently from a cooking pot, the Earth has a triple insulation system.

The super hotspots are the way to cool the core, directly. We know this, because massive plumes giving rise to massive traps occur every 200 million years or so. They are associated to the earth dynamo, in the liquid outer core. After the dynamo has been so quiescent, that there had been no more magnetic field inversions for at least 30 million years.

Then the dynamo gets active again, with plenty of magnetic field inversions, and shortly after, a super hotspot, a super plume, is released. The head of such a superhot spot is around 500 kms across, and can rise at one meter per year, through the entire mantle.

When the Reunion superhot plume reached the Indian island-continent, it pushed it from below: it was as a giant balloon of extremely hot magma; being so hot that it was much less dense, it pushed up, according to Archimedes principle (= “hydrostasis”). India, a continent made of light, solid, rigid material, as continents are, resisted for a while, bulging up by a full kilometer into a giant dome, before the hot lava and gases of the super giant plume broke through it, and flooded half of the Indian subcontinent with the Deccan traps.

This is no mean feat, because the lithosphere below a continent can be up to 200 kilometers thick (it is unlikely that Chicxulub could have broken through it significantly: the Siberian impact described at the end of this essay penetrated by a mile, and fractured rock nine kms deep).

The so called “Shiva” destruction off shore in India may be related to the fact that there can be NO lithosphere in an oceanic plate (for example between the Cape Verde islands (another small hotspot) and the Caribbean, the raw mantle is directly exposed to the ocean…) Thus, as part of the super plume broke through the oceanic plate, it was a different job there, dismantling the Seychelles (or so it seems).

***

SUPER HOTSPOT CAUSES SUPER TRAPS, AND SUPER TRAPS CAUSE MASS EXTINCTIONS:

When a super trap erupts, it goes through a series of massive, brutal pulses of activity. The two main ones of the Deccan traps bracketed the K-T boundary (the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, when the extinctions occurred). During the main pulse, a layer as deep as an astounding 220 meters of thick lava came out within ten years (it seems: latest research, 2009). Some lava flows, the longest ever recorded, rushed east across all of India, and are at least 800 kilometers long.

Enormous amounts of deadly SO2 and CO2 gases pervaded the planet’s atmosphere, the former poisoning and acidifying everything, and occluding the sun, bringing a multi-year night, the second causing an enormous, lethal greenhouse, that quickly followed the volcanic winter, and filled up the ocean with carbonic acid (killing sea life).

Next, the gigantic basaltic lava beds reacted with the CO2 in the atmosphere, removing it, and the planet ended up with less of a CO2 greenhouse than before the traps, hence much cooler (over the next million years as the geological record shows). So it went: super cold, super hot, hyper acidic, long term cold. In a few years. Then repeat in the next pulse.

It’s a miracle birds and mammals survived. In the earlier Permian-Triassic extinction, caused by the even more gigantic Siberian traps, which covered maybe a third of the gigantic Eurasian continent with lava flows, at least 95% of animal species went extinct (250 million BP). Just as with the Deccan traps, there was a first massive traps eruption several million years before (more exactly 8 million years before).

There are many examples of this. Not just the disappearance of dinosaurs, and the extinctions 258 and 250 million years before the present. All traps coincide with extinction events, except the smallest and most recent of them all, the Columbia traps, which broke through the North American plate, 15 million years ago (this from the “Yellowstone” hotspot; some lava flows then went 100 kilometers, in one shot, though!)

The release of volcanic gases, particularly sulfur dioxide, during the formation of the traps, contributed to contemporary climate change. Data point to an average global fall in temperature of 2 °C during the eruptions. At least. Experiences with various volcanoes in the last two centuries show it could have been several times that.

The Tambora eruption in Indonesia in1815 caused the “year without a summer” of 1816, in Europe. Around Tambora, it was completely dark for four days. Tambora was of course teeny tiny and ridiculous relative to a traps event.

***

THE DESPAIR OF THE IMPACTISTS:

When it became clear that the Chicxulub bolide was too small to extinguish so much, those obsessed by impacts searched for another impact. Plenty of them were found, but none of them coincided with an extinction. Chicxulub was the only one of the sort. So they argued the ground at Chicxulub was special (lots of limestone, thus lots of CO2 thrown up in the air). Now two thirds of impacts will happen at sea, so maybe a big impact disappeared in a subduction zone… Hope erupts, eternal.

Because the Deccan Super Traps loomed ominously in their future, and the Siberian Super Traps loomed ever larger, those obsessed by impacts argued that the Yucatan impact somehow melted, or broke, the other side of the Earth, creating the Deccan Traps (as if volcanoes needed impacts!) This is beyond silly. The traps had started millions of years before (although at a slower pace). Besides, continental drift shows that Yucatan and India were very far from antipodal then (Yucatan was in the middle of the present day Atlantic, and India was above the Reunion island)!

A recent variant of this is to argue that the tortured sea bed off the remaining piece of the Deccan traps is actually a super gigantic impact crater (!). The impactists even gave it a name: Shiva! But it is not because something drastic happened that it is necessarily a super giant bolide, landing just where the largest volcanism on Earth had festered for millions of years. Common sense should put limits to cosmic conspiracy theories!

And this is to forget the power of the Reunion super hot spot: it destroyed part of the Indian continent, forcefully separating the Seychelles islands micro-continent (these islands are indeed half granitic, which means they are made of continental crust; the continent in between got torn apart, and swallowed by the super hotspot, which also distorted the local mid oceanic ridge, while giving rise to a whole succession of islands finishing with Maurice and Reunion).

The impactists may say that the probability of Chicxulub coinciding with the Deccan Super Traps was low. But not that much. Let’s say a Chicxulub happens about twice every 100 million years nowadays (some may have happened, and be eaten in a subduction zone; besides we know of several giant impacts around 35 million years ago, in America and Siberia; one created Chesapeake Bay).

The worst pulse of the Deccan traps is roughly coincidental with the KT boundary, and was followed by the second most devastating pulse 300,000 years later. Chicxulub was also within 300,000 years of the largest Deccan pulse (supposedly).

The probability of a bolide impact happening during the Deccan traps is therefore 3%. Small, but not unbelievable. No other extinction was found sort-of coincidental with a bolide, all are simultaneous with super traps.

(And if one looks at the probability of a bolide impact during Super Traps (not just during an acute phase), it’s a minimum of 10%: ten million years for a Super Traps episode seems the rule. It’s higher if one observes that there were 4 bolide impacts in the last 100 million years, which is arguably the case; then the probability is as high as 40%!)

Before the K-T boundary, dinosaurs had been declining for a few million years (apparently the number of species would have been overestimated, because often the young looked very different from older individuals, and so were classified as different species; news from 2009).

The climate had been cooling (a cooling climate would have been devastating for dinosaurs, who had no time to evolve in warm blooded animals generating their own heat, as birds and mammals had evolved, over 180 million years).

The first, and smaller, Deccan pulse 2.5 million years earlier than Chicxulub (67.5 million years BP) has got to do with it: exposed lava beds absorb CO2. And enormous lava absorbs enormous CO2. The whole Deccan craziness was followed by a strong and persistent cooling, over millions of years, most probably for the same reason (absorption of CO2 by decomposing basalt beds).

***

Conclusion: LET’S NOT GET TRAPPED!

Whenever one discovers a truth, there is often a larger truth behind it. Going from the particular truth to the general one is the meta process, central to thinking, also known as abstraction. (I claim it is central to neurobiological thinking.)

It is true that the dinosaurs disappeared in a catastrophe. But that catastrophe is not a one-time event; it keeps on coming back, every 200 million years or so.

The model of the impact simply does not work. Besides, even it worked once, it would have to work each time the magnetic field reversals stayed quiescent for dozen of millions of years previously, an unimaginable causality, for those who don’t believe in miracles they do not need.

Moreover, we are engaged in a man-made ersatz mass extinction, led by Washington (the USA, and its leading factory, China, produce more than 40% of the man-made CO2).

This time the CO2 is indeed man-made, not caused by Vulcan. To make it more hellish, American technologists and self described “Super Freaks” have suggested to compensate the man-made CO2 greenhouse effect by a man-made SO2 cooling effect, exactly like the natural work of Vulcan. (They propose to inject billions of tons of SO2 in the stratosphere, because it will allow Americans to drive SUVs, and burn all their coal, since “the USA is the Saudi Arabia of coal”: clearly, God wanted it to be burned!)

Science is just common sense, on steroids, applied to the labyrinth of reality. We are living in a scientific society. Although some of the leadership clings to superstition, even the superstitious ones cannot ignore science. Science is about what is. It is also a method. That method consists in applying common sense to reproducible facts, and check the models one makes from said reproducible facts against observed phenomena.

We are working very hard right now. Most of the planet’s workers are hell bound to reproduce right away, right now, many of the conditions that extinguished dinosaurs, pterosaurs, pliosaurs, plesiosaurs, mosasaurs, etc…

What kind of economy is that? This house (eco) is managed (nomy) poorly. But I would respectfully suggest we know enough to predict what is going to happen next, and it is useless to reproduce the same catastrophe before its time. We don’t need man-made super traps.

***

Patrice Ayme.

***

P/S 1: Institut Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP), especially its paleomagnetic and tectonic units, have pushed for many of the ideas above about super plumes from paleomagnetism (most probably those units are the foremost in the world, and I say this although the Vincent Courtillot, who heads IPGP, professes to be skeptical of the anthropogenic CO2 greenhouse… I would not be surprised this has to do with some of the considerable, and considerably opaque financing of IPGP…But it is of good war, as one says. A careful listening to director Courtillot shows that he is so careful in what he says about the greenhouse, so anxious not to contradict it blatantly, that, obviously, he believes in it). Ever since the enormity of Siberian and Deccan Traps was known, and their coincidence with mass extinctions, many people, no doubt, drew the obvious conclusions.

Although I did arrive to the same conclusions independently about what really caused the disappearance of the dinosaurs, it was on more general principles (the purported impact was clearly insufficient in explosive power, poisoning potential, and long term, multi million year cooling capability).

P/S 2: Mr. Sheth (whose picture of the Deccan I used above) has claimed that the gigantic Deccan Super Traps would not be due to a super plume coming straight from the core. His arguments are unconvincing (they are contained within the data above, but he makes a bid deal about the fact that the Deccan Traps occurred over time). But, of course, super plumes or not, the volcanic events were large enough for a worldwide mass extinction (and the bolide was not).

P/S 3: Washington caused trouble before. The Chesapeake Bay impact crater was formed by a bolide that impacted the eastern shore of North America about 35 million years ago, in the late Eocene epoch. That crater is a mile deep (as deep as the grand Canyon), and about 100 kilometers across. Just as Chicxulub, it was revealed by oil geologists. There was a mass extinction around that time, as the temperature of the Earth fluctuated and cooled. That event came to be known as the “Grande Coupure” (French for Great Break, since French geologists discovered it).

Am I contradicting myself in these last few lines? Well, not really: the events 35 million years ago involved several impacts. There was an even larger impact in Popigai, Northern Siberia, plus another, again in Siberia, maybe one in Italy, and a secondary impact in America. Although complete guesswork at this point, it’s not impossible that Earth collided with a major comet then (the comet would have fragmented first maybe through a first low pass, as happened with Jupiter a few years back. Another possibility is a multiple body asteroid (those are frequent). Viewed the other way, this failed massive mass extinction proves the point about the K-T mass extinction not possibly being caused by just one 10kms body.

image

P/S 4: The success of the asteroid-killed-the-dinosaurs obsession coincided with the Star Wars obsession, and that’s probably not a coincidence. In case a large object suddenly appeared on an imminent collision course with Earth, using nuclear bombs to explode or deviate it would be the only solution. So insisting the entire biosphere was devastated by just one collision gives a good reason to be sympathetic to Star Wars.

P/S 5 (2019):  New dimensions of Armageddon from the Siberian Traps have appeared in 2018. Consider:

https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/dont-underestimate-earths-violence-permian-mass-extinction-boosted-by-ozone-destroying-gases/