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Researchers find smoking gun of world's biggest extinction
Date:1/23/2011

r two-million-square kilometers, a size greater than that of Europe. The ash plumes from the volcanoes traveled to regions now in Canada's arctic where coal-ash layers where found.

Grasby studied the formations with Dr. Benoit Beauchamp, a professor in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Calgary. They called upon Dr. Hamed Sanei adjunct professor at the University of Calgary and a researcher at NRCan to look at some of peculiar organic layers they had discovered.

"We saw layers with abundant organic matter and Hamed immediately determined that they were layers of coal-ash, exactly like that produced by modern coal burning power plants," says Beauchamp.

Sanei adds: "Our discovery provides the first direct confirmation for coal ash during this extinction as it may not have been recognized before."

The ash, the authors suggest, may have caused even more trouble for a planet that was already heating up with its oceans starting to suffocate because of decreasing oxygen levels.

"It was a really bad time on Earth. In addition to these volcanoes causing fires through coal, the ash it spewed was highly toxic and was released in the land and water, potentially contributing to the worst extinction event in earth history," says Grasby.


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Contact: Leanne Yohemas
leanne.yohemas@ucalgary.ca
403-540-6552
University of Calgary
Source:Eurekalert  

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