Major volcanic eruptions have been a part of Earth’s history. Some of these eruptions caused so much climatic and biological disruption that they drove some of the most destructive extinction events in Earth’s history.
Scientists now have new information on the likely cause and timing of these events, which occurred many millions of years ago.
Trinity College Dublin has revealed that magma was able to rise to the Earth’s surface due to a slowing in continental plate movement. This led to devastating knock-on effects.
This surprising discovery was made using chemical data taken from an ancient mudstone deposit found in a mile-deep borehole in Wales.
This natural event occurred in the Jurassic period during the early torsion phase. It was also known as an oceanic anoxic event (T–OAE). In this event, the lack of oxygen in the water led to a significant number of living beings becoming extinct. The cause of the eruption is still unknown.
New research suggests that the eruption was caused by a slowdown of continental movement. Micah Ruhl (professor of sedimentology at Trinity College Dublin in England), led the research.
Ruhl and his associates suspect that these changes cause magma to leak out of the Earth’s core and create large-igneous provinces (LIP), large areas of volcanic rock that have so far been carved into South Africa and Antarctica.
This research offers new insight into the events that rocked Jurassic Period when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and supercontinent Pangea was in its final years. Ruhl’s research team also believes that the decrease in continental velocity has broad implications.
“Scientists believe that the instigator of volcanic activity was the onset of magma or molten volcanic rock upwelling from deep within Earth’s interior,” said Dr. Micha Ruhl of Trinity College Dublin.
This causes major large igneous province volcanic explosions, their associated climate perturbations, and mass extinctions.
These include the Siberian Traps, located in Russia. They cover more than 500,000 miles and were the scene of almost a million years worth of volcanic activity.
Major volcanic eruptions have led to major increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, which has warmed the Earth’s climate and caused unprecedented changes in ecosystems. This has also resulted in massive extinctions on Earth and in the seas.
The international team was able to link two events that took place during the Toarcian period around 183million years ago.
This period was marked by some of the worst climatic or environmental changes of all time and coincided directly with major volcanic activity and associated greenhouse gases released in the southern part of the hemisphere.
Computer reconstruction models revealed that the slowing down of continental plate movement was the fundamental geological process that controlled the timing and onset of this volcanic event and other events of such great importance.
Dr. Ruhl stated that “Crucially, further analysis shows that a decrease in continental plate motion likely controlled the onset, duration, and duration of many major volcanic events throughout Earth’s history,”
Five major mass extinctions have occurred in the last 600 million years. Some are well-studied, while others are more mysterious.
The three first extinctions occurred at the close of the Ordovician Period (445 million years), Devonian Period (385 to 359 million years ago), or Permian Period (252million years ago).
The Permian Period, which saw the end of marine life and approximately 75% of all species on Earth, was the most catastrophic of these events.
Massive volcanic eruptions took place on a scale not seen before. Other effects included the runaway greenhouse effect caused by methane released from the seafloor clathrates. It took approximately 10 million years for recovery.
The Triassic extinction, which occurred around 201 million years ago, mainly affected marine life. A third of all marine species went extinct. Some reptile species also became extinct on the land.
A 66 million-year-old asteroid smashed into the Gulf of Mexico, causing the last mass extinction. It decimated the dinosaurs.
This study helps to unravel the various processes that control global carbon cycling change and tipping points within Earth’s climate system.
It could also have implications for the present, as sixth mass extermination is thought to be in progress due to manmade global heating.
Ruhl’s team believes that the cessation or slowing of continental movement coincided the worst mass extinction event ever recorded, the Great Dying. This catastrophic event decimated more than 90% of all life on Earth 250 million years ago. Additionally, there were several mass extinctions that occurred over the past 500 years and the last one million years.
These new findings may also be used as an example of how human-caused global warming will affect our future. Although volcanic activity is different from fossil fuels, both emit large quantities of carbon dioxide and other gases which can cause global warming. This happens in a short time span. We can predict the future by studying the effects of greenhouse gases on Earth’s habitats and the various life forms that live there.
Ruhl stated that volcanoes release large quantities of carbon and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
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Experts’ List of the World’s Most Dangerous Volcanoes
The Philippines, Indonesia, and parts of South America are some of the most deadly regions where volcanic eruptions can cause death.
Since the eruption of 79 CE that buried Pompeii, Italy’s Vesuvius 79CE, Vesuvius has been a terrifying figure. According to the Smithsonian Institute/USGS Global Volcanic Program database, eight major eruptions of the volcano have occurred in the past 17,000 years.
These were followed by a large pyroclastic flow, which was recorded over the Smithsonian Institute/USGS Global Volcanic Program Database. Vesuviu’s last eruption was in 1944. Multiple plans have been made by the Italian government to prepare for an eruption in the future. According to the database, at least six million people reside in the area of Vesuvius.
Mount Rainier is one of the most deadly volcanoes in America. According to the USGS, Mount Rainier is a dangerous volcano due to its high elevation and chemical composition. It’s also close to Washington’s Seattle suburbs.
The volcano’s ability to produce intense pyroclastic flows as well as lava flows and volcanicash. Mount Rainier’s volcanic lava flows can melt snow and ice, which could lead to a rapid downstream flow (called lahar) of mud, rocks, and debris. According to the USGS, the most dangerous risk from an eruption at Mount Rainier is the large lahars. According to the Global Volcanism Program, an eruption could affect more than 2 million people.
Novarupta volcano is located in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve. It was created in 1912 by an eruption that produced nearly 30 kilometers of ash and other debris into the atmosphere. This eruption was the largest of its kind in the 20th century and formed the Valley of Ten Thousand clouds of smoke. Although Novarupta isn’t populated, it was formed by an eruption in 1912.
It rained sulfurously and ash throughout southern Alaska and Canada. According to the USGS, three days later, Kodiak residents had suffered from eye irritation and respiratory problems due to ash fall. According to the National Park Service for Katmai, Novarupta was not an example of the many eruptions that occur in this region. To protect the public, Katmai volcanologists are still monitoring more than a dozen active volcanic sites.
Mount Pinatubo is a popular volcano in the Philippines. It was famous for its 1991 major eruption, which was second only to Novarupta. Although Pinatubo had never been subject to an explosive eruption before the eruption, at least 722 people were killed by the pyroclastic flows which formed a caldera-shaped lake in the volcano. According to the Global Volcanism Program, there are more than 21,000,000 people living within 100 km (about 62 miles), of Pinatubo today.
Mount St. Helens
1980’s eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington was the most deadly and destructive volcanic event in American history. Along with hundreds of animals and people, the eruption claimed the lives of 57 people. The eruption caused the destruction of approximately 200 square miles of forest. The USGS says Mount St. Helens’ history with explosive eruptions suggests that future episodes are very likely. According to the USGS, another explosive eruption could send huge amounts of ash across the Pacific Northwest. The volcano is being closely monitored.
In Indonesia, Mount Agung continues to erupt and its most recent eruption was in 1963. It was one of the worst eruptions in Indonesian history. The 1963 eruption of Mount Agung, located in Indonesia, lasted for 11 months. It produced dangerous ash falls and a pyroclastic flow that caused more than 1,000 deaths. After the November 2017 eruption, ash plumes from the volcano were continuously observed through 2018. According to the Global Volcanism Program, the volcano is in an area with approximately four million people.
According to the Volcano World program at Oregon State University, Japan’s Mount Fuji has not erupted in over a century. This is despite it having been struck by a powerful earthquake in 1707. Experts warned in 2014 that Fuji was at high risk of another eruption after the earthquake of 9.0 magnitude that struck Japan in 2011. Researchers believe that the earthquake caused an increase in pressure below Fuji. The 1707 eruption emitted ash and debris that reached Tokyo. According to the Global Volcanism Program, Fuji could erupt again and more than 25,000,000 people may be affected.
Mount Merapi, one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes has been continuously erupting since ancient times. NASA says Merapi’s greatest risk is pyroclastic flow, which can cause widespread destruction and pose a threat to people. Merapi erupted once more on May 11, sending plumes and smoke into the air, and prompting evacuations from the area. More than 24 million people reside in the vicinity, according to the Global Volcanism Programme.