Instead of just emerging out of a colossal fissure and pouring over the landscape throughout its million-year-long conquest, the team found that this lava intruded into an area of carbon-rich sediments for 50,000 years. This was likely the reason so much carbon dioxide was produced during the event, which ultimately ended up setting off the worst mass extinction event in the planet’s history.
When this step-change occurred and vast carbon dioxide reserves began to be unleashed, life on land struggled, and the oceans began warming and becoming more acidic.
This ultimately ended up destabilizing stores of frozen methane – a shorter lived, but far more potent greenhouse gas – beneath the sea floor. These effused into the Panthalassic and Tethys oceans, and climate change was exacerbated further.
On Earth, everything that is an equation needs to be balanced. If you heat the oceans, they will try to cool down. Similarly, if you add in all this methane and carbon dioxide, another gas needs to be removed to make room, so to speak. In this case, that gas was oxygen, and chemistry conspired to remove it from all of life’s environments.
From the initial volcanic trigger, life was frozen, burned, overheated, corroded, and suffocated in a climate change nightmare.
People talk about the end of the world like it’s a potential future scenario, but as the geological record shows, it’s not science fiction – it already happened, 252 million years ago.