Apr 23, 2019 09:02 AM EDT
Two hundred and fifty million years ago, temperatures rose at 10 degrees Celsius after all the greenhouse gases were belched into the atmosphere. It caused what the experts call the Siberian Trap that paved the way for what was the the "Great Dying."
More than 95% of all the life on Earth then was wiped out, which practically what paved a way for the dinosaurs to inhabit the planet. New evidence shows that a volcano was behind the "Great Dying" as a scientist was able to uncover a layer of ancient mercury covered a rock that dates back to this period.
"Volcanic activities, including the emission of gases in the atmosphere and the combustion of everything organic, released high amounts of mercury on the surface of the Earth," said Jun Shen, lead author of the study and a researcher from the China University of Geosciences.
"It is typical for a large explosion of a volcano to release a huge mass of mercury in the atmosphere," added Thomas Algeo, a professor of Geology from the University of Cincinatti.
Scientists believe that about 3 million cubic kilometers of ash was ejected in the air covering Siberia. This amount is 100 times more than what was ejected during the Eyjafjallakull eruption that happened in 2010. The spike of mercury levels was found in more than ten different locations in the planet.
"We are left to wonder what was the most harmful to people and to the environment. Creatures that have adapted to the colfer environment definitely had thin chances for survival," said Algeo. "My guess is that the increase in temperature may be considered the top reason for the massive death toll. Other effects that would exacerbate deaths include the acidification of particles in the environment, not to mention the other toxins that could directly cause the kill." The spread of mercury in the atmosphere, then, should never be taken lightly.
"The longer the volcanic eruptions went on, the more damage it was causing the environment."
The Earth has suffered five mass extinctions and the scientists believe that if we don't put an end to global warming as a problem, we are probably on the verge of suffering the sixth.
"We should learn from these past experiences that saving the environment is serious business. It is not a problem of one person or one environmentalist group," said Algeo. "It is much easier to find solutions to this problem before it becomes a crisis."
The latest findings of the study was published in the journal Nature Communications.
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