Volcanic eruptions drove ancient global warming event

August 30, 2017
Layered volcanic rocks in Eastern Greenland that are up to 4 miles thick were formed during ancient volcanic eruptions that caused a global warming event called the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). Credit: Michael Storey, Natural History Museum of Denmark

A natural global warming event that took place 56 million years ago was triggered almost entirely by volcanic eruptions that occurred as Greenland separated from Europe during the opening of the North Atlantic Ocean, according to an international team of researchers that includes Andy Ridgwell, a University of California, Riverside professor of earth sciences.

The findings, published today in Nature, refute the more commonly favored explanation that the event, called the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), was caused by the release of carbon from sedimentary reservoirs such as frozen methane.

"While it has long been suggested that the PETM was caused by injection of carbon into the atmosphere and ocean, the mechanism has remained elusive until now," Ridgwell said. "By combining geochemical measurements and a global climate model that my group has been developing for over a decade, we have shown that this event was caused almost entirely by carbon emissions from the Earth's interior."

Scientists are interested in studying ancient warming events to understand how the Earth behaves when the climate system is dramatically perturbed. During the PETM, more than doubled and global temperatures rose by 5 degrees Celsius, an increase that is comparable with the change that may occur by later next century on modern Earth. While there was significant ecological disruption during the PETM, most species were able to avoid extinction via adaptation or migration. However, the rate of carbon addition during the onset of the PETM lasted for several thousand years, as described in a related Nature Communications paper by Sandra Kirtland Turner, an assistant professor of at UCR, whereas current change is occurring on a century time-scale.

To identify the source of carbon during the PETM, the researchers studied the remains of tiny marine creatures called foraminifera, the shells of which shed light on the environmental conditions when they lived millions of years ago. By separating the different atomic masses ('isotopes') of the element boron in the foraminifera shells, they tracked how the pH of seawater changed during the PETM. By combining this data with Ridgwell's , the team deduced the amount of carbon added to the ocean and atmosphere and concluded that volcanic activity during the opening of the North Atlantic was the dominant force behind the PETM.

"The amount of carbon released during this time was vast—more than 30 times larger than all the fossil fuels burned to date and equivalent to all the current conventional and unconventional fossil fuel reserves we could feasibly ever extract." Ridgwell said.

An unexpected finding was that enhanced organic matter burial was important in ultimately sequestering the released carbon and accelerating the recovery of the Earth's ecosystem without massive extinctions.

"Studying the PETM helps us understand the mechanisms that aid recovery from global warming, thereby helping researchers reduce the uncertainties surrounding the Earth's response to ," Ridgwell said. "While it is encouraging that most ecosystems were able to adapt during the PETM, today's global temperature could be increasing at a rate that is too fast for plants and animals to adjust."

Explore further: Warning from the past: Future global warming could be even warmer

More information: Marcus Gutjahr et al, Very large release of mostly volcanic carbon during the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, Nature (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nature23646

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25 comments

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Turgent
1 / 5 (9) Aug 30, 2017
At least evolution didn't have to start again at pond scum.
Caliban
4.6 / 5 (11) Aug 30, 2017
Well, turdgnat, maybe will give Evolution a second go at it, since we are recreating the same conditions by continuing to inject Fossil Fuel-derived greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.
Da Schneib
4.6 / 5 (11) Aug 31, 2017
@Turbid, apparently it had to start over from rodents and rodent-like mammals.

Maybe you're OK with rats taking over the world because humans couldn't stop burning coal because most of them were idiots like you.
rrrander
1.6 / 5 (13) Aug 31, 2017
Warmer climates = more life and more diversified life. Every inch of the fossil record backs this up.
HeloMenelo
4.3 / 5 (12) Aug 31, 2017
At least evolution didn't have to start again at pond scum.

Thriving conditions for turd like matter though, o what do you know, a Turd like commenter just commented (antigoracle sockpuppet) but what ever happened to your waterprophet sock ?
HeloMenelo
4.6 / 5 (11) Aug 31, 2017
@Turbid, apparently it had to start over from rodents and rodent-like mammals.

Maybe you're OK with rats taking over the world because humans couldn't stop burning coal because most of them were idiots like you.

The planet never did top any of his priorities of the decades of goon postings from him and his riot of sockpuppets, besides Turds and rats share the same habitat. (and the same ideals and goals)
HeloMenelo
4.1 / 5 (13) Aug 31, 2017
Warmer climates = more life and more diversified life. Every inch of the fossil record backs this up.

The braincelss caved and backed up to implode in the epicenter of your head... yet again (as usual for an antigoracle / turdgent sockpuppet) Clearly having not a cookie clue nor cares about what the term adding fuel to the fire means, your lala land "warmer climates" will become a roasted inferno.
Anonym
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 31, 2017
Note to copy editor: research modeling such as this study "rebuts," it does not usually "refute." When a new explanation emerges, it will "rebut" (but not refute) this explanation. ... Around and around and around we go.

Key takeaway is that the amount of "carbon" released during the event was more than "30 times larger than all the fossil fuels burned to date and equivalent to all the current conventional and unconventional fossil fuel reserves we could feasibly ever extract."

Yet, the temp rose only 5C, same as is predicted (by the most extreme models) to occur next century as our puny engines of doom fill the atmosphere, somewhat, with nasty heat-spewing carbon --- well, if you assume no transportation revolution occurs for the next 100 years, as the models apparently must.

All of which begs the question: How come it didn't get much hotter still, 56 million years ago?

katesisco
1 / 5 (6) Aug 31, 2017
Yes, when I read the 30x carbon release I immediately thought of W Brown Hydroplate Theory. That theory starts with an unexplained event that 'shells' the Earth.
Could it be that we had a 3-body cosmic interaction in which an iron meteorite shattered and created such an amount of dust that the globe acquired a secondary skin of iron? Could the surface material be the carbon released at 65 my ago?
I wonder if our Moon was actually a sun-produced high pressure gas sphere that was also involved and acquired an iron shell. That theory fits with what science knows about the Moon's composition. I refer to this proto Moon as a brown dwarf because the gas sphere description fits also.
Caliban
5 / 5 (8) Aug 31, 2017
[...] Key takeaway is that the amount of "carbon" released during the event was more than "30 times larger than all the fossil fuels burned to date and equivalent to all the current conventional and unconventional fossil fuel reserves we could feasibly ever extract."

Yet, the temp rose only 5C, same as is predicted (by the most extreme models) to occur next century as our puny engines of doom fill the atmosphere, somewhat, with nasty heat-spewing carbon --- well, if you assume no transportation revolution occurs for the next 100 years, as the models apparently must.

All of which begs the question: How come it didn't get much hotter still, 56 million years ago?


@anonym,

A reasonable question, and probably arises from someone's inattention to detail.

First suspect assertion is that cited for total GHG release leading up to PETM.

Second fact to check would be the 5 degree spike at PETM.

I'll have a look for relevant citations.
Da Schneib
4.6 / 5 (9) Aug 31, 2017
Here's a pretty good start, @Caliban; it will probably lead you to some good references.

Seems atmospheric carbon doesn't add linearly; an increase of CO₂ by 100 PPMV from, say, 200 to 300 PPMV, increases the temperature more than another increase by 100 PPMV, from, say, 300 to 400. It's a doubling of CO₂ that makes an equal increase to a previous doubling. So we can expect as much temperature increase from 400 to 800 as we have seen from 200 to 400. #climatecranks of course attempt to cover this up, as the one you're talking to is doing.
Caliban
4.6 / 5 (9) Aug 31, 2017
A quick survey yields some variations. Just for grins:

Globally, temps peaked at as much as 9C over present.
Deep ocean water at as much as 20C!
Ocean acidification sufficient to stop carbonate shell generation.
Several episodes, over much longer timescales than present, and lasting in total for about 200KY before return to normal.

Bottom line is that these guys are pretty much just proposing another/additional/alternative causal mechanism for rapid increase in atmospheric GHG concentration. Nothing in their proposal can unequivocally constrain their GHG source to North Atlantic igneous Province.

Most of the confusion is simply from poor writing of this article.
J Doug
1.5 / 5 (8) Sep 01, 2017
Maybe you're OK with rats taking over the world because humans couldn't stop burning coal because most of them were idiots like you.


I'm sure that Da Schneib can or will give an estimate of just how long and costly that "transition" will be since at this time, Solar = 0.4%, Wind = 4.4% & Petroleum = 1% in the production of the US's electrical needs. In 2015 these sources of energy produced what, in Da Schneib's mind, are an insignificant amount of the 4 trillion kilowatthours of electricity. About 67% of the electricity generated was from fossil fuels (Coal = 33%, Natural gas = 33%,Petroleum = 1%). https://www.eia.g...&t=3
A person would have to admit to being sadly naive if they did not know that; "China alone accounts for 80% of the entire world's increase in coal consumption so far this century. It now consumes as much coal as the rest of the world combined.

J Doug
1.4 / 5 (9) Sep 01, 2017
The 155-new coal-fired power plants it is currently planning to build will burn twice as much coal as all of Germany's existing plants do. Coal generates 67% of China's electricity, oil and natural gas 23%, hydro 10%, and wind and solar combined only 2%. Nearly a billion Chinese still exist on less than $5 per day, and the Middle Kingdom will be burning fossil fuels for decades to improve their living standards. India, Indonesia, the rest of Asia, all of Africa and much of Latin America are in the same situation. All are burning coal, oil, and natural gas to lift billions out of abject poverty – and will continue doing so."
I would hope that even Da Schneib can see that it was not windmills or solar panels that accomplished what follows.
J Doug
1.5 / 5 (8) Sep 01, 2017
June, 19 2013 "One of the most remarkable feats in the world has been the lifting of about a billion people out of abject poverty in the past couple of decades. If the industrialisation trend continues, then this century could witness some of the rapid improvements in living standards seen in the West during the 19th Century. […] The prize, which many will hope is in reach, is that global poverty is eliminated entirely within another couple of decades. It is the reason why the Nobel Laureate Robert Lucas said that once you start thinking about economic growth and the improvements in standards of living, it is hard to stop." http://www.bbc.co...22956470
I've been to China four different times recently and they for sure are not going to pay much attention to idiots like Da Schneib & Caliban, nor will folks who know have enough logic to know that CO₂ has nothing to do with the earth's climate.

J Doug
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 01, 2017
Water vapor is the earth's most significant greenhouse substance because it makes up 95% of what causes the greenhouse effect. Taking this fact into consideration, total CO₂, both man made or naturally occurring, is only about 3.62% of the overall greenhouse effect. "Of the 186 billion tons of CO₂ that enter earth's atmosphere each year from all sources, only 6 billion tons are from human activity. Approximately 90 billion tons come from biologic activity in earth's oceans and another 90 billion tons from such sources as volcanoes and decaying land plants."
bschott
1.5 / 5 (8) Sep 01, 2017
I've been to China four different times recently and they for sure are not going to pay much attention to idiots like Da Schneib & Caliban, nor will folks who know have enough logic to know that CO₂ has nothing to do with the earth's climate.

That's why we don't really pay attention so much as read the nonsense and laugh accordingly. You should see them talk about theoretical astrophysics like they are laws that have been chiseled in stone...it's akin to runaway dementia.
Caliban
5 / 5 (8) Sep 02, 2017
Biscuit,

Just so you know, J'dumb is a paid troll residing in Massachusetts, USA.

His above claim to have been to mainland China, and elsewhere, to Malaysia, is a complete lie.

J'dumb has died the death of "ignore user" serially here on Porg, and yet the idiot just creates a new login and continues with his floodposting of unattributed, out-of-context, cherrypicked, and irrelevant antiscience pseudoscience mumbo jumbo.

Speaking of which, I'm about to avail myself of the "ignore" button for, I think, the fourth time, right now.

If you have any regard for the truth --or even honest debate-- then I recommend you do the same.
J Doug
1 / 5 (5) Sep 02, 2017
The steaming piece of dog dung, (AKA,Caliban), who has never been right about anything is also wrong about me residing in Massachusetts, USA. The stupid, lying fool is maintaining that I, John D Swallow, have never been to China, and I assume the other 66 other countries that I have visited and some of them several times. I have been further around the world several times than this idiot has been trying to find the handle on a tea cup. This current post of the idiots is consistent with most of his where he never comments on what the topic of the article. It is amazing how this idiot perchance for name calling instead of politely dealing with the issue at hand could lead me down the putrid road that the fool has been paving. If (AKA,Caliban) will just forgo the idiotic name calling and just try to present some facts about whatever his view is on any given subject I will do the same because his kind of trash talk and stupid approach is sure not my style, unless forced in to it.
J Doug
1 / 5 (7) Sep 02, 2017
Volcanic Carbon Dioxide
The second most erupted gas on the planet next to steam has a significant magmatic source in which it is preferentially fractionated towards the surface. On the scale of atmospheric composition, the isotopic composition of volcanogenic CO2 is effectively indistinguishable from fossil fuel CO2 due to the complete lack of statistically significant carbon isotope determinations for each of the contributing volcanic and tectonic provinces. Moreover, molar oxidation estimates cannot be used to constrain volcanogenic CO2 output because such estimates neglect the fact that carbon is not the only abundant element on the planet that preferentially combines with oxygen.
http://carbon-bud...011.net/
HeloMenelo
5 / 5 (7) Sep 03, 2017
Pretty sureJ Doug dung is playing the banana lotto again (he's luck's always been stellar, as he always wins more bananas)
The only clown here who hasn't been able to produce facts is... Why what do you know ?.... YOU
Now stop hiding under your J dung sock and let's see you post in your waterprophet antigoracle self again.
J Doug
1 / 5 (6) Sep 03, 2017
The only clown here who hasn't been able to produce facts is... Why what do you know ?.... YOU


We can be totally sure that the penis licking dud, Hellforstupid, doesn't even know what the subject of this article is that I was commenting on. The ignorant idiot has no idea it is: "Volcanic eruptions drove ancient global warming event". If the sack of dog dung did know, then the question could be, why didn't HeloMenelo make some informative comment about the topic? To get the dud to do that would be like teaching a pig to fly, only easier.

HeloMenelo
5 / 5 (7) Sep 03, 2017
What can i say, playing you and your puppet's for the fool has been a ball, all thanks to yourself really ;) as it always is, you having fun getting jerked around the circle, and we like to keep it going, stupidity on this site is never tolerated, and in your case it shows, every time (and it seems like you love to be kept there ,so a win win situation eh...
J Doug
1 / 5 (4) Sep 03, 2017
stupidity on this site is never tolerated, and in your case it shows


But, you penis licking dud, the question is, why have you not come to understand that this site was supposed to be for discussions of various topics and that there is freedom of speech in this country; therefore, differences of opinions are discussed by people who have IQ in excess of what you are cursed with of 70? What, in your illiterate "comment", suggest that you are capable of having a logical discussion about anything? If "stupidity on this site is never tolerated" then the obvious quest is what is an ignorant, dull piece of dung doing on here?

"In general, someone with an IQ of 70 is likely to work a lower-paying, more physically oriented job, and have less success (a lot, as in likely not to finish at all) in school. They are, to be quite blunt, markedly less intelligent than most other people."

HeloMenelo
5 / 5 (5) Sep 05, 2017
Now monkey swinging the trees is not going to up that iq of yours,nor that chest thumping ;) freedom of speech ? i see only freedom of idiocy from your side, and so does everyone else see the same :D

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