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back to article HELL ON EARTH: The Great Dying

Archaeologists looking at soil in China have seen traces of a time when the earth burned, sulphur filled the air and three quarters of living creatures died. Investigating the biggest mass extinction in the earth's history - a team led by Shu-zhong Shen of Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology examined two dozen cross- …

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Anonymous Coward

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Paleontologist: "What's striking is how fast the extinction was," [at 100k years]

Homo Sapiens: "you aint seen nothing yet"

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Devil

Hah!

How about the biosphere will be built on total novel designs engineered-from-ground-up that will leave all the critters that now exist in the dust?

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Childcatcher

Ouch!

Let's hope it doesn't happen again!

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Trollface

Volcanos?

I find it interesting that the researchers say that it was all caused by volcanic eruptions poisoning the air. Don't the AGW people say that volcanoes don't put enough stuff into the atmosphere to have any effect?

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Pint

That's because you haven't into counting yet

Several thousand per year for 20'000 years...

Uhh...

Chicken?

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FAIL

Do a bit of reading

regarding supervolcanoes, such as the one underneath Yellowstone Park. Pay special attention to the numbers regarding ejected volume, and the *orders of magnitude* those are larger than those of conventional volcanoes.

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Pint

Somebody think of the children!!

Has anybody told Al Gore about this?

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Facepalm

Not "Archaeologists"...

they don't do this sort of stuff, you'd want a palaeontologist or something of the sort.

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Especially as the affiliation is given as "geology & paleontology", nothing archeaology.

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Mushroom

Anything to do with...

...Xenu?

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Anonymous Coward

The Effect May Have Been Volcanos

However the cause might have been something else, for example increased gravitational forces or a large body impact.

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This is all related to the Deccan Traps in India.

Point the first: One megavolcano kicking off can bring down civilisations - one such was the santorini eruption which wiped out the Minoan state and directly led to the end of Hyksos rule in egypt, not to mention migrations, war, and a top to toes reboot of Greek civilisation. It could be said to be the one event that ended the Greek Heroic Age.

Point the second: The Deccan Traps are volcanic and metamorphic associate deposits of if my memory serves acidic/intermediate volcanics. Think Mount St Helens + Vesuvius + the yellowstone caldera all mixed up and then multiplied a couple of thousand times.

The result of a few thousand years of that is going to result in an atmosphere thats full of fine ash, so there goes the temperature and the green plants, so its bye bye food chain. Then theres the rain thats something along the lines of battery acid. Not to mention the nice friendly pyroclastic clouds and the noxious gas seepage that'll put paid to anything local.

Pretty much anything and everything that could erupt, explode, smoke or barf out hundreds of cubic kilometers of nice baking hot volcanic rock at about 800-1200c all got in on the act all at once.

Point the third: Life is very resiliant, theres a saying that life turns up everywhere it can, the places where it cant just take a little longer. Human society could probably manage to take maybe 2 megavolcano events simultaneously without buckling, by that I dont mean extinction, but fundamental problems with our social frameworks and paradigms.

10 simultaneous or closely sequel megavolcano level events, probably not.

The Deccan Traps and their associated deposits are thousands of years of megavolcanic events numbering 100s to 1000s. Add to that we are apex omnivores... And we are pretty much screwed.

The issue with the Permian event is that its quick and its massive. Life manages usually to deal with one or the other, but not both. Massive and slow = evolution. Quick and localised = repopulation. Both quick & massive together is a terminal combination, because there is nowhere retaining a healthy population.

The problem for us, is while we have worldwide networks and transport, we are still dependant on a food chain, we've no other populations except on this planet, and no way of tapping resources from other planets or bodies. It actually might be an idea that all missions to the space station be mixed male & female - things start to go bad in a short term way, we have a seeding population, albeit a small one.

One poster mentioned that a single volcano has no quantifiable effect. They do, but its usually hidden in the data or something like a small ice age. Its like a person taking codiene for example... 30-90mg stops pain, but you only have to increase that by 100fold to end up with a corpse and some worrying questions. Likewise, 1-3 volcanos kick off, you might get a cold snap, 100 kick off and you're reduced to dwarf bread with a nice long island battery acid.

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Cool to see Pratchett made his way in at the end :-)

Only question is 'healthy population' healthy depends on ones perspective - for the rest of the world i suspect a healthy human population is 0 - and i kinda agree with them

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Holmes

"This is all related to the Deccan Traps in India."

The Deccan Traps in India are dated to 60-68MY bp (i.e end of dinosaur era).

The KT Great Dying is ~250MY bp, which puts it 190MY before the Deccan Traps.

The Siberian Traps have been dated to ~251MY bp, which makes them a more likely culprit.

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Anonymous Coward

Maybe it was

Alien intervention, they saw the direction evolution was headed and sent a few fairly large asteroids in the wrong direction, to "keep down the roaches" so to speak.

Just have to hope they don't come back for another round of Whack-A-Mole.

-AC 6EQUJ5 and BTW where the hell is my flying car already?

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"Known as The Great Dying and occurring at the end of the Permian period."

I don't suppose anyone called it that at the time, so who, exactly, is throwing this phrase around and what gives them naming rights?

Let's call it "The Great Right-Sizing".

Far too many species cluttering up the place... who needs these dumb dinosaurs anyway?

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Flame

Try reading the article

It was before the dinosaurs.

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Boffin

Personally my favourite disaster is quite minor...

something along the lines of a few scenarios that Stephen Baxter has thought up: acidification of the oceans.

So what?

well, if its too rapid it will kill off all the foraminifera.

So what?

thats the plankton - the bottom row of bricks in the food pyramid. Thanks for playing, goodbye!

On the bright side - I subscribe to the 'Edge of Darkness' Gaia theory: Earth would do rather well without us, thank you very much.

I just hope the meercats scrape through, those guys really deserve a go.

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