Systemic swings in end-Permian climate from Siberian Traps carbon and sulfur outgassing


Siberian Traps flood basalt magmatism coincided with the end-Permian mass extinction approximately 252 million years ago. Proposed links between magmatism and ecological catastrophe include global warming, global cooling, ozone depletion and changes in ocean chemistry. However, the critical combinations of environmental changes responsible for global mass extinction are undetermined. In particular, the combined and competing climate effects of sulfur and carbon outgassing remain to be quantified. Here we present results from global climate model simulations of flood basalt outgassing that account for sulfur chemistry and aerosol microphysics with coupled atmosphere and ocean circulation. We consider the effects of sulfur and carbon in isolation and in tandem. We find that coupling with the ocean strongly influences the climate response to prolonged flood basalt-scale outgassing. We suggest that sulfur and carbon emissions from the Siberian Traps combined to generate systemic swings in temperature, ocean circulation and hydrology within a longer-term trend towards a greenhouse world in the early Triassic.

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Fig. 1: Outgassing scenarios and changes in global surface temperature and ocean circulation.
Fig. 2: CO2 and SO2 cause competing effects on surface temperatures and hydrology.
Fig. 3: Summary of end-Permian proxy data and comparison with model results.
Fig. 4: Conceptual illustration of how combined flood basalt sulfur and magmatic and crustal carbon emissions cause repeated climate swings.

Data availability

Model outputs used to generate Figs. 13 have been archived at PANGAEA ( Proxy data are available from the original sources as cited in the text.


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B.A.B. acknowledges support from NSF grant 1615147. L.T.E.-T. and B.A.B. are grateful for formative early support from NSF grant 0807585. R.R.N. acknowledges support from the NSF via the NCAR Advanced Study Program post-doctoral fellowship. We acknowledge the high-performance computing support from Yellowstone and Cheyenne provided by NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory, sponsored by NSF. A. Schmidt offered helpful suggestions on an earlier version of the manuscript.

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B.A.B. conceived the research and analysed the results. B.A.B. and R.R.N. designed and performed the simulations with input from J.-F.L., J.T.K., C.A.S., M.J.M., C.B. and L.T.E.-T. All authors contributed to writing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Benjamin A. Black.

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Black, B.A., Neely, R.R., Lamarque, J. et al. Systemic swings in end-Permian climate from Siberian Traps carbon and sulfur outgassing. Nature Geosci 11, 949–954 (2018).

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