Paleoecologists suggest mass extinction due to huge methane release

Jul 22, 2011 by Bob Yirka report
This wide angle view of the Earth is centered on the Atlantic Ocean between South America and Africa.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Micha Ruhl and colleagues from the University of Copenhagen's Nordic Center for Earth Evolution have published a paper in Science where they contend that the mass extinction that occurred at the end of the Triassic period, was due to a "sudden" increase in the amount of methane in the atmosphere due to the effects of global warning that resulted from the spewing of carbon dioxide from volcanoes.

Prior to this research, most scientists have believed that the sudden extinction of nearly half of all life forms on the planet was due solely to the emissions from that were occurring in what was to become the Atlantic Ocean. Ruhl et al contend that instead, what happened, was that the small amount of atmospheric heating that occurred due to the exhaust from the volcanoes, caused the oceans to warm as well, leading to the melting of ice crystals at the bottom of the sea that were holding on to methane created by the millions of years of decomposing . When the ice crystals melted, methane was released, which in turn caused the planet to warm even more, which led to more methane release in a , that Ruhl says, was the real reason for the that led to the next phase in world history, the rise of dinosaurs.

Ruhl and his team base their assertions on studies they've made of the in plants (found in what is now the Austrian Alps) that existed during the period before the mass extinction. In so doing they found two different types of carbons and the molecules that were produced during that time frame. After extensive calculations, Ruhl and his team came to the conclusion that some 12,000 gigatons of methane would have had to have been pumped into the atmosphere to account for the differences in the isotopes; something the team believes could only have happened if the methane were to come from the .

This new research, though dire sounding, may or may not have implications for modern Earth. While it is true that humans have pumped significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, amounts that are approaching what Ruhl and his team say led to the earlier methane release, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are on the same path, because as Ruhl points out, things are much different today, the very structure of the planet has changed so much that it would be impossible to transfer what might have been learned about events in Earth’s history 200 million years ago, to what is going on today.

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More information: Atmospheric Carbon Injection Linked to End-Triassic Mass Extinction, Science 22 July 2011: Vol. 333 no. 6041 pp. 430-434 DOI:10.1126/science.1204255

ABSTRACT
The end-Triassic mass extinction (~201.4 million years ago), marked by terrestrial ecosystem turnover and up to ~50% loss in marine biodiversity, has been attributed to intensified volcanic activity during the break-up of Pangaea. Here, we present compound-specific carbon-isotope data of long-chain n-alkanes derived from waxes of land plants, showing a ~8.5 per mil negative excursion, coincident with the extinction interval. These data indicate strong carbon-13 depletion of the end-Triassic atmosphere, within only 10,000 to 20,000 years. The magnitude and rate of this carbon-cycle disruption can be explained by the injection of at least ~12 × 103 gigatons of isotopically depleted carbon as methane into the atmosphere. Concurrent vegetation changes reflect strong warming and an enhanced hydrological cycle. Hence, end-Triassic events are robustly linked to methane-derived massive carbon release and associated climate change.

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plaasjaapie
1.1 / 5 (16) Jul 22, 2011
You'd think if environmental activists really cared about the environment instead of their political agenda they'd be demanding that we drill the methane hydride deposits and use them up instead of drilling conventional gas wells.
Bob_Kob
1.4 / 5 (11) Jul 22, 2011
TLDR; Dinosaurs became extinct due to global warming.

nice.
YogaXander
1.1 / 5 (7) Jul 22, 2011
Too late to save this world anyway.
Spaceman_Spiff
2.7 / 5 (7) Jul 22, 2011
Had the same problem earlier in the week at my apartment on Chili night.
ryggesogn2
2 / 5 (10) Jul 22, 2011
Was volcanic activity under the water melting the methane considered?
LKD
2.5 / 5 (10) Jul 22, 2011
Interesting. The problems with meteor causality seem to not match up to the facts that have been coming out recently, so this does seem plausible and possible. Nice hypothesis.
Sophos
1.4 / 5 (11) Jul 22, 2011
Oh noooo dinosaur farts killed the dinosaurs.
Quick, Eat a cow and save the planet
GSwift7
3.3 / 5 (14) Jul 22, 2011
Prior to this research, most scientists have believed that the


It's probably safe to say that the concensus should not and has not been swayed by this single paper. There are still MANY papers on which the concensus is based, which have findings contrary to this non-concensus view.

It is scientifically wise to be skeptical of any new theory which is contrary to all the previous work done by all the other experts in the field.
ryggesogn2
2.1 / 5 (15) Jul 22, 2011
Prior to this research, most scientists have believed that the


It's probably safe to say that the concensus should not and has not been swayed by this single paper. There are still MANY papers on which the concensus is based, which have findings contrary to this non-concensus view.

It is scientifically wise to be skeptical of any new theory which is contrary to all the previous work done by all the other experts in the field.

"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it" Max Planck
askantik
5 / 5 (14) Jul 22, 2011
A couple people here seem to think that this paper is saying increased methane caused the dinosaur extinction. Please READ the article. This is before the dinosaurs.

"...which led to more methane release in a chain reaction, that Ruhl says, was the real reason for the mass extinction that led to the next phase in world history, the rise of dinosaurs."
Isaacsname
3 / 5 (2) Jul 22, 2011
Ummm..aren't most hydrates found far below the floor of the oceans ?
rubberman
1 / 5 (3) Jul 22, 2011
I beleive they are Clathrates when they are below the ocean floor....
Donutz
5 / 5 (7) Jul 22, 2011
Yeah, this article is talking about the end-triassic extinctions, not end-cretaceous. Only 135 mega-years off.
Telekinetic
3.5 / 5 (11) Jul 22, 2011
You'd think if environmental activists really cared about the environment instead of their political agenda they'd be demanding that we drill the methane hydride deposits and use them up instead of drilling conventional gas wells.

Why drill and despoil more pristine ecologies when you can tap landfills and sewage plants for their methane, a successful practice in countries around the world. Environmental activists like to use their brains.
Burnerjack
2.8 / 5 (5) Jul 22, 2011
Sounds like global warming is destructive and also part of the Earth's natural history. Heat happens.
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (1) Jul 22, 2011
I beleive they are Clathrates when they are below the ocean floor....


Right, clathrate hydrates, my bad.
joefarah
1.4 / 5 (10) Jul 22, 2011
We should cap all volcanoes so it doesn't happen again.
Of course this is the cause... IPCC has been telling us this all along. One other thing that will help - kill all the animals that emit CO2 and/or methane, unless they are humans that fit the eugenics plan.
ryggesogn2
1.8 / 5 (10) Jul 23, 2011
To Red Comet, and your point about Planck and the NAZI party was....?

"In the closing days of the war, von Braun and a group of his rocket scientists surrendered to American forces. Although he had been a member of the German SS and had used slave labor at Mittelwerk, the Nazi underground rocket facility, von Braun and his colleagues were embraced by the United States government and began working for the Army on rocket technology. In 1960, von Braun became the first director of NASAs new Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "
http://www.pbs.or...aun/101/
FrankHerbert
1 / 5 (52) Jul 23, 2011
Marjon, and your point about ANYONE and the nazi party is...?
ryggesogn2
2.1 / 5 (7) Jul 23, 2011
Marjon, and your point about ANYONE and the nazi party is...?

Ask Red Comet. He raised the issue about Max Planck.
Isaacsname
3 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2011
Anywho, my question is how they are melting ? I've done enough reading up on hydrates to know they are found in a specific zone of P/T, usually well below the mudline. Or are there a greater amount of hydrates found somewhere else than beneath the floor of the oceans ?
Shootist
2.4 / 5 (9) Jul 24, 2011
To Red Comet, and your point about Planck and the NAZI party was....?

"In the closing days of the war, von Braun and a group of his rocket scientists surrendered to American forces. Although he had been a member of the German SS and had used slave labor at Mittelwerk, the Nazi underground rocket facility, von Braun and his colleagues were embraced by the United States government and began working for the Army on rocket technology. In 1960, von Braun became the first director of NASAs new Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "
http://www.pbs.or...aun/101/


And he was solely responsible for the success of Apollo. Without him, nothing.
FrankHerbert
0.7 / 5 (49) Jul 24, 2011
"Don't Godwin my heroes!" -- Shootist, Marjon (Ryggesogn2)
StandingBear
1 / 5 (3) Jul 25, 2011
Poooor dinos, had tails just like the 'roos' as in kangaroos that are gonna be hunted down and kilt' jes' becuz' they fart. Not only that, da 'roos do it in Oz! Aztraylia that is. Charlie the 'Roo oughta march..naw ...hop right down to Canberra, NSW, and into the government house there and cry unfair, and genocide of his race. He knows it...his arse is depicted on the Great Seal of Australia!
LKD
1 / 5 (3) Jul 25, 2011
And he was solely responsible for the success of Apollo. Without him, nothing.


I agree. There was a movie miniseries on... HBO I believe? Clearly he didn't watch it.

http://en.wikiped...eries%29
ryggesogn2
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 25, 2011
VB was certainly instrumental in the success of Apollo, but he would have failed if the Apollo program was as risk averse as the Shuttle was.
VB has the green light from the JFK and Johnson to do what ever it takes to succeed.
Howhot
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 25, 2011
Actually R2, it was Tricky Dick's poison pin that did them in, Apollo that is, budget cuts you know.

You know, this is really is an interesting article. The asteroid that struck the Yucatan and formed the K2 boundary must have released a huge plume of methane gas, by the melting of methane hydride in the ocean. It easily could have cause a massive global warming of amazing proportions.
Howhot
2.2 / 5 (6) Jul 25, 2011
Of course you RWing deniers probably like mass extinctions. It seems like you want America to go that way.
Howhot
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 25, 2011
R2 you will find this enjoyable.
http://video.goog...86635859
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (1) Jul 31, 2011
it is self evident from reading the responses that the warming denialists here didn't actually read the article.

Why then are they here?
ryggesogn2
2.7 / 5 (7) Jul 31, 2011
Of course you RWing deniers probably like mass extinctions. It seems like you want America to go that way.

Why do I keep hearing from the 'progressives' that the human population must be reduced and some go as far as to say humans are a virus on the Earth.
The 'progressives' are on record practicing mass murder and promoting coercive plans to reduce the number of humans on the planet.
Shootist
2.7 / 5 (7) Jul 31, 2011
Of course you RWing deniers probably like mass extinctions. It seems like you want America to go that way.

Why do I keep hearing from the 'progressives' that the human population must be reduced and some go as far as to say humans are a virus on the Earth.
The 'progressives' are on record practicing mass murder and promoting coercive plans to reduce the number of humans on the planet.


Don't forget, they counsel the poor to abort their unborn children.