Earth's Biggest Volcanic Events

A surprising discovery shows that slowing continental plate movement controlled the timing of Earth's biggest volcanic events

A surprising discovery shows that slowing continental plate movement controlled the timing of Earth's biggest volcanic events:

Scientists have shed new light on the timing and potential causes of major volcanic events that occurred millions of years ago and caused such climatic and biological upheaval. They drove the most devastating extinction events in Earth's history. Shocking new research suggests that the slowing of continental plate movement was the critical event that allowed magma to rise to Earth's surface and produce devastating knock-on effects.

Volcanic Events
Earth's history has been marked by large volcanic events, known as Large Igneous Provinces (LIPs), the largest of which caused large increases in atmospheric carbon emissions, which warmed Earth's atmosphere, led to unprecedented changes in ecosystems, and resulted in mass extinctions on Earth.

The team found that this time period, characterized by the most extreme climate and environmental changes during this period, coincided directly with major volcanic activity and related greenhouse gas emissions in the southern hemisphere known as Southern Africa.

In further research, more importantly, the team's plate reconstruction models helped them discover a key fundamental geological process that appears to have controlled the timing and initiation of this volcanic event and others of great magnitude.

Volcanic Events
The team was led by Micha Ruhl, assistant professor at Trinity's School of Natural Sciences. He said:

Scientists have long thought that the up welling of molten volcanic rock or magma from the Earth's interior, such as mantle plumes, triggers such volcanic activity. But new evidence shows a common rate of many continental plate movements. Centimeters per year effectively prevent magma from entering the Earth's continental crust.

Magma from mantle plumes can effectively reach the surface only when the speed of continental plate motion is reduced to nearly zero. This causes massive volcanic eruptions and their associated climate changes and mass extinctions.

In particular, the reduction in continental plate movement controlled the onset and duration of many major volcanic events in Earth's history. It has become a fundamental process in controlling the evolution of climate and life at Earth's surface throughout history.

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Materials provided by Trinity College Dublin.

Note: Content is also emended for vogue and length

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