How Was Life Almost Wiped Out on Earth? Acid Oceans

One of the symptoms of rising CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing acidity of the oceans. Measurements have shown such a rise for several decades now, leading to coral die-off, changes and diminishment of fish spawning. Now, we begin to know how bad it could become.

Acidic oceans helped fuel the biggest mass extinction in the history of life on Earth, a study says.

The Permian-Triassic mass extinction, which took place 252 million years ago, wiped out more than 90% of marine species and more than two-thirds of the animals living on land.
Its causes have been much debated.

Now, studies of rock in the United Arab Emirates, which were on the ocean floor at the time, are providing a detailed record of rapid changes in ocean acidity — linked to massive volcanism in the Siberian Traps. Massive amounts of CO2 can not be absorbed by the atmosphere alone so much is ‘dumped’ into the oceans, leading to acidification too rapid for marine life to adapt.


“This is a worrying finding, considering that we can already see an increase in ocean acidity today that is the result of human carbon emissions.”

It’s not just geology, folks.  It’s the future.

3 Million Year Old Whale Surfaces

Very cool.

“Workmen constructing a storm water equalization tank this week at the San Diego Zoo dug up a surprising find: a 3-million-year-old whale.

…Our genus, Homo, wasn’t even around 3 million years ago, so this wasn’t some sort of super prehistoric zoo. The site then, during the Pliocene, was under water.

…The age of this whale is interesting, as it coincides with what’s known as The Great American Interchange, where various land and freshwater faunas migrated between North and South America. Many species went extinct then. But armadillos, opposums, hummingbirds and vampire bats all traveled to North America, while horses, tapirs, saber-toothed cats and deer entered South America. The first short-faced bears also appeared at this time.”

and for more on the Great American Interchange see here or the fine book, The Monkey’s Bridge by David Rains Wallace.

Yellowstone Caldara Rising

As all of us who have been through Yellowstone Park know, there’s an enormous cooker below the stone that sends the geysers skyward and keeps the mud-pots burbling. Magma, from the bowels of the earth, collects in a great chamber, running uphill as it were from the tremendous pressures below. Measurements from space of the earth surface above the caldera have shown significant movement in the last year.

The surface of the Yellowstone caldera is now rising at 7 cm a year, according to a paper in this week’s Science. Wu-Lung Chang and colleagues used satellite measurements to measure uplift between 2004 and 2006 and found a rate three times faster than that measured in the 1920s. Chang thinks the results imply magma chambers below the surface are recharging.

Yellowstone Rising

Should it blow, which most are not suggesting, it would be the largest natural disaster of recorded history, scorching and burying under ash and earth all living creatures for hundreds of miles down wind. As to the silver lining, the ash suspended in the atmosphere would mask the sun and cool the earth, backing it away from the current warming trends.

You’d think enormous R&D would be turned towards sustainable use of the energies of these magma vaults, not to die out before the earth itself….