This image shows annual mean surface temperatures in degrees Celsius at the time of the Permian extinction. It is based on a computer simulation generated by the Community Climate System Model at NCAR. (Illustration courtesy Jeff Kiehl, NCAR.)
Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) have created a computer simulation showing Earth’s climate in unprecedented detail at the time of the greatest mass extinction in the planet’s history. The work gives support to a theory that an abrupt and dramatic rise in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide triggered the massive die-off 251 million years ago. The research appears in the September issue of Geology.
"The results demonstrate how rapidly rising temperatures in the atmosphere can affect ocean circulation, cutting off oxygen to lower depths and extinguishing most life," says NCAR scientist Jeffrey Kiehl, the lead author.
Kiehl and coauthor Christine Shields focused on the dramatic events at the end of the Permian Era, when an estimated 90 to 95% of all marine species, as well as about 70% of all terrestrial species, became extinct. At the time of the event, higher-latitude temperatures were
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