Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lurking under foot

Die biosphere, die!

An ancient killer is hiding in the remote forests of Siberia. Scientists are starting to uncover the remnants of a supervolcano, that was walled off from western eyes during the Soviet era and that rained Hell on Earth 250 million years ago, killing 90 percent of all life.

Now a team of researchers led by Henrik Svenson of the University of Oslo in Norway have performed a series of experiments, showing the volcano employed an arsenal of deadly weapons during its 200,000-year-long assault on the biosphere.

Prime among them was carbon. Searing magmas from the volcano intruded into the Tunguska Basin in eastern Siberia, a region laden with thick deposits of coal, oil and gas. Heat from the molten rock baked the hydrocarbons, turning the area into the world's largest fossil fuel-burning plant. In all, the volcano may have belched as much as 100,000 gigatons of carbon into the air (all of humanity emits about eight gigatons of carbon annually).

Also on the menu: Lava.  Which heated up the salt deposits.  Which releases methyl chloride. Which kills ozone.

The Siberian Traps did this number on our biosphere for 200,000 years.
blog comments powered by Disqus