Monday, November 27, 2006

Here’s some fascinating stuff I picked up watching Nova Science Now, which is news magazine focusing on science on PBS. Anyway about 250 million years ago there was a tremendous loss of life on Earth dubbed by some scientists as “The Great Dying”. About 95 percent of all species on Earth were lost. What caused “The Great Dying” or, if you must be all scientifically correct, the Permian-Triassic extinction? Scientists aren’t positive but they have a fascinating theory.

The theory goes a little something like this. At the time of the extinction the region now known as Siberia was extremely volcanically active. All that volcanic activity released a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide then started to warm the atmosphere, as the atmosphere warmed so did the oceans. The oceans as they got warmer became less able to hold gas, warm water can’t hold onto gas effectively as colder water. The weakened ability to hold gas meant they could hold less oxygen. As the oxygen levels decreased in the ocean bacteria that thrive in wet low oxygen environments began to multiply. These same bacteria give off a gas called hydrogen sulfide, which is toxic. The hydrogen sulfide then began killing aquatic life and eventually began poisoning the air on the surface.
Now scientists aren’t certain that this is what happened. But they do feel like they may be on to something. Now what you need to do is notice any parallels between what wiped out 95 percent of all species a quarter billion years ago and what is happening today. Now I’m not saying anything bad is going to happen. But if you notice a lot of dead fish and the air smells a bit like rotten eggs don’t say you weren’t warned.


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