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Ancient global warming turned earth an inferno

Friday November 18, 2011 06:56:41 PM, IANS

London: The largest study yet of the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, or the Great Dying, ties it to catastrophic greenhouse gas emissions.

According to new research, staggering quantities of carbon dioxide and methane gas, from the largest volcanic eruption sent temperatures soaring, causing wildfires that destroyed forests and turned fertile land into deserts. This eradicated 95 percent of marine life and 70 percent of life on land.

With time, life was beginning to gain momentum on earth, four-limbed vertebrates had started to diversify into groups that included amphibians, reptiles and the primitive ancestors of mammals, the journal Science reported.

The new research is based on a variety of dating techniques and analysis of sedimentary rocks from China and Tibet. It pinpoints the extinction event at 252.28 million years ago, the Telegraph reported.

Scientists believe that it was set off by a massive eruption from the Siberian Traps, a system of volcanoes in what is now Russia. The whole event lasted less than 200,000 years, with most species dying out over a period of 20,000 years.

"Our information narrows down the possibilities of what triggered the massive extinction and any potential kill mechanism must coincide with this time," said Charles Henderson, researcher, University of Calgary in Canada.

Researchers said the timing and pace of the mass extinction indicated that both land and marine ecosystems collapsed suddenly, leading to continental aridity and widespread wildfires and rapid global warming.

"The geological record tells us that 'change' happens all the time, and from this great extinction life did recover," Henderson said.







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