Scientists examining a spike in worldwide ocean temperatures 55 million years ago have linked it to massive volcanic eruptions that pushed Greenland and northwest Europe apart to create the North Atlantic Ocean.Consistent with the Late Permian-Siberian Traps theory too.
Writing in the journal Science, geologists at Roskilde University in Denmark, Oregon State University and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, present evidence that this intense volcanic activity occurred at the same time ocean temperatures jumped five to six degrees Celsius. A better understanding of previous global warming episodes will give scientists perspective as they study today's climate and ocean level changes pegged to human generation of greenhouse gases.
"That prehistoric volcanic activity released more than 2000 gigatonnes (billion metric tons) of carbon into the oceans and atmosphere in the form of methane and carbon dioxide – two potent greenhouse gases," said Michael Storey of Roskilde University in Denmark, the study's lead author. "The carbon probably came from the heating of earlier deposits of decayed organic matter – similar to deposits in the Atlantic and North Sea we tap today for oil and gas."