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Apparently, as far as is known, the basalt flood eruptions that took place 250 million years ago in what is now Siberia, causing global changes in climate because of which almost all life on Earth died, were unique in Earth's history. Nothing like them have occurred since, and nothing like them -- as far as we know -- occurred before them. So what gave rise to them?

I propose that since the Earth's mantle, which contains huge amounts of radioactive elements because of which the magma in the mantle is as hot as it is, includes random assortments of all elements within it. Sometimes, by random chance, the movement of vast rivers of molten rock in the mantle brings together huge amounts of rock and metal in which one or two elements far and away predominate, the rest only a salting of that giant mass of molten material. The analogue in the crust would be nearly-pure veins of one sort of metallic element or another. e.g., iron, silver, gold, etc.

That being the case, imagine that a quarter of a billion years ago, the paths of two rivers of magma consisting of material containing large amounts of various isotopes of uranium, intersected under what is now Siberia. If they collided head-on, the force of that collision would be maximal; otherwise it would vary as the angle at which their paths intersected. The sheer tonnage of those molten masses would insure that their collision would release vast amounts of kinetic energy, including energy to move neighboring masses out of their accustomed channels and thermal energy.

But there would be more. As assumed here, those materials would contain large amounts of uranium, some of it in the form of U235, the rest in the form of U238, with less amounts of isotopes of uranium, plutonium, and other actinides added to the mix. Distributed somewhat randomly throughout these two "rivers" of molten material, during the collision, there would be numerous separate collisions of these metals within the mass -- bringing about several critical masses of these radioactive materials at once.

In other words, this would result in several large nuclear explosions occurring almost simultaneously mostly in the place of the collision but also spread out along the original pathways of the metals before they came together as floods of nuclear particles and intense electromagnetic energy were released by initial explosions, spreading outward through the entire mass of the metals. The ultimate result of all this would be an incalculable nuclear catastrophe taking place in the Earth's mantle underneath Siberia, opening up huge wounds in the crust through which enormous amounts of magma -- thereby becoming basaltic lava -- would erupt, flowing outward in all directions.

These eruptions, which clearly did take place then, are evidenced by the massive amounts of basaltic lava rock -- the Siberian Traps -- underlying the soil, permafrost, ice, and snow of Siberia. They in turn initiated the process of global warming which caused the greatest mass extinction of life on Earth ever known, the Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction. Over some 40,000 or more years, mounting global warming entailing a 10-degree Celsius/18-degree Fahrenheit rise in global temperatures and a consequent release of methane from methane hydrates in the oceans, lakes, and waterways wiped out more than 90 percent of life in Earth's oceans and 70 percent on land. We know what kicked it off -- those hideous flood basalts in Siberia. But why there -- and why such huge amounts? I hope the ideas I present here could help point the way to solid answers to those questions.

Posts from This Journal by “permian-triassic extinction event” Tag


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Yael Dragwyla

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