We all know the score by now: Fossil fuels are bad; Russia is bad. So where did the worst-ever fossil fuel burn happen? You guessed it! Researchers in the US say massive coal burning in Siberia caused the world’s worst extinction.
During the Permo-Triassic extinction event, our planet was hit by lethal global warming which led to 96 percent of all marine species and 70 percent of terrestrial vertebrates disappearing from the face of the Earth.
It was long-hypothesized that the catastrophic event was caused by extensive coal burning. Now a team of international scientists, headed by Professor Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University (ASU), has found evidence to back this theory.
The scientists say they’ve found first direct evidence that the Permo-Triassic extinction was caused by massive coal burning in Siberia.
In recent years, the team have made numerous trips to the Siberian Traps, a region of basalt rock in Russia which formed as a result of one of the largest known volcanic events in the past 500 million years, which lasted a whole 2 million years and spanned the Permian-Triassic boundary. The researchers recovered more than 450 kg of volcanic rocks from the area, which they shared with colleagues in eight different countries for closer scrutiny.
The subsequent analysis revealed fragments of burnt wood, burnt coal and even some sticky organic-rich blobs in the rocks. Those fragments matched with the microscopic remains of burnt coal discovered earlier on one of the Canadian Arctic islands, and which were believed to have wafted there from Siberia at the time of the Permo-Triassic extinction.
“Our study shows that Siberian Traps magmas intruded into, and incorporated, coal and organic material. That gives us direct evidence that the magmas also combusted large quantities of coal and organic matter during eruption,” Elkins-Tanton said of the findings.
Siberia only became a part of Russia in the 16th century, while the so-called Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time took place a bit earlier… about 252 million years earlier, to be more precise. While the researchers didn’t assign blame for the event on any nation, it wouldn’t take much time for the media and the Twitter geniuses to do so – so watch out!
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