The massive eruptions that occurred in the late Triassic Period created what’s called the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province or CAMP. Along with volcanic rock, the eruptions would have added carbon dioxide and other gases to the atmosphere, potentially triggering strong climate change.
The new evidence about CAMP published in the journal Science relates to the age of the volcanic rocks in question. Sophisticated dating techniques now indicate the whole CAMP province of volcanic rocks was formed during a period of only 40,000 years. Geologically speaking, that’s nearly instantaneous. Such a massive outpouring of lava in such a short time could well have rapidly changed the atmosphere and thus climate.
The more we learn about major extinctions, the more respect we must have for the ferocity of Mother Nature. Let’s hope we don’t live long enough to see her bear her volcanic claws once more.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.