Extinction conditions at the end of the Triassic that eerily resemble modern climate change

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A new study says carbon emissions and ocean acidification were the two main deadly blows that caused the Triassic extinction event.

The late Triassic extinctions were caused by conditions similar to those experienced today climate change, according to a new study. Scientists are still trying to figure out what really killed the dinosaurs, with the theory pointing to a planet-killing asteroid that struck the Gulf of Mexico about 66 million years ago. Needless to say, the reason for an extinction 200 million years ago is even more difficult to determine.

The sentence “climate change‘ is mainly associated with the impact humans have had on the planet and its environment since the first industrial revolution. However, the planet has experienced several climate changes in its 4.5 billion years of existence. All of these climate change events have been driven by natural processes, some examples being the Ice Age and several glacial periods.

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As explained by Phys.org, researchers at Curtin University’s School of Earth and Planetary Science say they’ve uncovered the two triggers that ended up causing the Triassic extinction event. According to the researchers, ocean acidification and carbon emissions provided the doubly fatal blow. Surprisingly, these two triggers are the two main factors driving climate change today. The difference between the Triassic event and today’s climate change is that the former was caused by natural phenomena, volcanic activity, and violent seafloor spreading, and not by humans.


A land that no one would recognize


Diagram of Triassic and modern climate change

The planet would be unrecognizable 250 million years ago. There were no continents, only the ocean-surrounded megacontinent Pangea. Even today, continents are not fixed, but a consequence of the tectonic plates hover on magma and lava of inner earth. Volcanic activity over the waters of the ocean created land then and still does today. In the depths of the ocean, tectonic plates collide in various ways, creating new sea crust. 200 million years ago, tectonic activity was so extreme that it began splitting Pangea into two large continents, Laurasia and Gondwana.

Curtin University researchers studied microscopic fossils preserved in rock found in the Bristol Channel Basin in the UK. “We have identified the twin mechanisms responsible for the mass extinction‘ the researchers said, adding that intense planetary tectonic activity released carbon emissions. This, in turn, affected the atmosphere and ocean acidity. Ocean acidification affected key types of ocean food webs with the death of coral, clams and oysters. As hydrogen sulfide levels increased, a cascading domino effect on life webs was created, leading to massive extinctions.


dr Calum Peter Fox said that the true triggers of the Triassic mass extinction are still unknown, while co-author Professor Kliti Grice explained that the results “Help us understand the current global warming crisis and how to protect our deteriorating ecosystems and environment.“Continents are still moving today, but so slowly that it’s of the least scientific importance, especially by comparison carbon emissions and ocean acidification.

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Source: Phys.org

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