The Day The Earth Nearly Died – BBC Horizon
250 million years, long before dinosaurs roamed the earth, the earth and the oceans teemed with life. This was the Permian, a golden era of biodiversity that was about to come crashing to an end. Within a few thousand years, 95% of life on the planet would be destroyed, Earth’s biggest mass extinction has ever known. What natural disaster could kill such a massive scale? Only in recent years the test has begun to emerge from the rocks in Antarctica, Siberia and Greenland.
The disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years (so called K / T boundary), it was nothing compared to the Permian mass extinction. The K / T event ended with 60% of life on Earth, the Permian event 95%. The geological data to explain the destruction have been hard to find, simply because the rocks are very old and therefore subject to all kinds of erosion processes.
It seems plausible that some kind of catastrophic environmental changes have made life unbearable in vast regions of the planet.
In the 1990s, the search for evidence was directed to a region known as the Siberian Traps. Today is a sub-Arctic wilderness, but 250 million years, more than 200,000 km ² of a stream of molten lava. The Siberian Traps are experiencing a “flood basalt eruption,” the largest volcanic effect on Earth. Instead of lava spewing volcanoes isolated division of the cortex and the curtains of lava were released. And the eruption of Siberian flood lasted for millions of years. Could the volcanic activity on such a long period alter the climate enough to kill 95% of life on Earth?