Culture

The Carnian Pluvial Episode

Millions of years ago a series of massive volcanic eruptions in the Wrangellia Province of western Canada, blasted out huge volumes of volcanic basalt. This now forms much of the western coast of North America.

It resulted in a major extinction of life 233 million years ago and enabled the dinosaur takeover of the world. 

Summary of major extinction events through time, highlighting the new, Carnian Pluvial Episode at 233 million years ago. Credit D. Bonadonna/ MUSE, Trento

Jacopo Dal Corso, of the China University of Geosciences at Wuhan, explained:

“The eruptions were so huge, they pumped vast amounts of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and there were spikes of global warming”. 

Jacopo Dal Corso heads a team of 17 scientists researching the mass extinction.

The climate change caused major biodiversity loss in the ocean and on land, but just after the extinction event new groups took over, forming more modern-like ecosystems. The shifts in climate encouraged growth of plant life, and the expansion of modern conifer forests.

Professor Mike Benton,of the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, said:

“The new floras probably provided slim pickings for the surviving herbivorous reptiles.

“We now know that dinosaurs originated some 20 million years before this event, but they remained quite rare and unimportant until the Carnian Pluvial Episode hit. It was the sudden arid conditions after the humid episode that gave dinosaurs their chance.”

The scientists published their paper: ‘Extinction and dawn of the modern world in the Carnian (Late Triassic)’ by J. Dal Corso and 16 others in Science Advances 6, eaba0099.

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