Mass Extinction, 'Great Dying' Could Wipe Out Life on Earth, Scientists Warn
Experts warning a repeat of a mass extinction event happen again
Scientists are warning that naturally occurring global warming was behind the largest mass extinction event on Earth, and our planet may be due for another huge wipeout.
Researchers have shown that the Great Dying, which killed almost all of Earth's ocean creatures around 250 million years ago, was caused by rising global temperates.
Continued natural changes to the Earth's climate - not to be confused with Al Gore's brand of "Climate Change" - could lead to a repeat of the Great Dying, which killed off 96 percent of life on Earth, millions of years before humans had even evolved.
Scientists believe that global temperatures could again rise to levels that would be unsustainable for the majority of life that inhabits our planet.
Long before the dawn of the dinosaurs, Earth was populated with plants and animals that were mostly obliterated after a series of massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia.
The mass extinction, triggered 252million years ago, essentially set life on our planet back to square one, and was followed by a period spanning millions of years in which life had to multiply and evolve once more.
Now researchers have shown that the Great Dying, which killed 96 percent of Earth's ocean creatures, was caused by global warming.
As volcanoes belched gases into the atmosphere, Earth's oceans heated up, and its warming waters could no longer hold enough oxygen for life to survive.
Scientists at the University of Washington warned that a similar event could occur within the next few hundred years.
"By 2100, warming in the upper ocean will have approached 20 percent of warming in the late Permian, and by the year 2300 it will reach between 35 and 50 percent," said study author Justin Penn.
"This study highlights the potential for a mass extinction arising from a similar mechanism."
The Washington team ran computer models to simulate the effects of the Great Dying on Earth's ancient oceans.
They showed that sulfur, ash, and other gases pumped into the atmosphere from volcanic eruptions starved Earth's oceans of 80 percent of their oxygen.
This is because as the oceans heated up, creatures and plants used up more oxygen as their metabolism increased.
About half the oceans' seafloor, mostly at deeper depths, became completely oxygen-free and uninhabitable to almost all life on Earth.
For the last few hundred years, the Earth has showed signs of following a similar pattern to the situation in the late Permian, researchers warned.
"This is the first time that we have made a mechanistic prediction about what caused the extinction that can be directly tested with the fossil record," Mr. Penn said.
"It allows us to make predictions about the causes of extinction in the future."
The study has once again proved that global warming has always occurred naturally on Earth, for hundreds of millions of years before humans even existed.
What were Earth's five major extinction events?
Here's all you need to know...
- End Ordovician, 444 million years ago, 86% of species lost
- Late Devonian Extinction, 375 million years ago, 75% of species lost
- End Permian or the 'Great Dying', 251 million years ago, 96% of species lost
- End Triassic, 200 million years ago, 80% of species lost
- End Cretaceous, 66 million years ago, 76% of all species lost