Sunday, December 06, 2015

Dr Gerta Keller Trumpets a Charge: Multiple Papers About Deccan Traps and the the K-Pg/KT Mass Extinction

Dr Keller has been leading an insurgency against the idea the Chicxulub impact was the underlying event that brought about the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) Mass Extinction (formerly the KT Extinction).  This is rather contrarian to the generally accepted theory.  

The journal Paleaeogeography, Palaeoclimateology, Palaeoecology has an issue dedicated to how volcanic eruptions impacted (see what I did there?) past mass extinctions (or didn't as it may be).  That's the reason for all the volcano related posts this past week.  

Dr Keller's 'team' has a large number of articles in the publication.  Rather than do my traditional one-paper-per-post method, I am going to do a list here of each.  The reason being I don't buy her hypothesis that the Deccan Traps caused the mass extinction during the Maastrichtian.  I've posted as much since the evidence comparing mass extinctions already strongly tied to volcanic eruptions is rather different from what is present for the K-Pg Extinction.  I wrote as much in the Stop Dreaming post.  

That said, I am sure the Deccan Traps did cause some environmental impacts (see!), but they are insufficient to have caused the mass extinction.

While I admire tenacity, I think she has crossed over to religion.  However, rather than ignoring the recent papers, since they are peer reviewed papers in a respected journal, I am going to link to each here with a very short title and a description of each and a short comment.

Upheavals during the Late Maastrichtian: Volcanism, climate and faunal events preceding the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. Keller et al present their case the Maastrichtian Cretaceous was a time a climate upheaval and ecological degradation caused by the Deccan Traps with the ecology dominated by opportunistic, disaster taxa.  My comment: T rex.  Too big.

A multi-proxy approach to decode the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. Punekar argues there are multiple bits of evidence suggest the Deccan Traps caused the mass extinction at the K-Pg, especially the release of 12 to 28 teratons of carbon. Comment: Unfortunately, in the same journal edition, the OAE1 from the Early Aptian Cretaceous is stated to have been caused by the release of 20 teratons of carbon. The OAE1 was a mass extinction but a very, very mild one. Additionally, in a surprise result, calciferous plankton actually grow MORE with higher carbon dioxide levels, not less as was expected.

Tracing acidification induced by Deccan Phase 2 volcanism
. Font et al ID some potential evidence of aquatic acidification at the end of the Deccan 2 Eruptions. These are located in India. Comment: Best to check to see how global this was before making a claim of global occurrence.

Palaeoenvironmental changes associated with Deccan volcanism, examples from terrestrial deposits from Central India. Fantasia et al present evidence of local impacts of the Deccan Traps caused stressed environment from India. Their claim is the DT caused environmental stress and could have made the Maastrichtian fauna vulnerable to a mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous. Comment: Possible, but this could be completely local. Mount ST Helens did enormous damage locally, but only modestly globally.

Climatic fluctuations and sea-surface water circulation patterns at the end of the Cretaceous era: Calcareous nannofossil evidence. Thibault et al make the argument surface plankton became stressed and lost species during the proposed Deccan Warmings. However, 100k to 140k years before the K-Pg Boundary, the plankton had regained their species richness. Comment: Interesting. Given the problems of IDing what forminifers are what species I'd be cautious. The recovery would suggest whatever stress caused by the DTs had ended though.

No comments: