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article imageOp-Ed: Earth's giant 'dead zone' in Permian lasted 5 million years

By Paul Wallis     Oct 22, 2012 in Science
Sydney - The Permian extinction wiped out 97% of species on Earth. Its cause was runaway CO2 levels. A new study has found a dead zone where nothing but shellfish survived. Land temperatures were 50C to 60C. Sea surface temperatures were about 40C.
The 'dead zone' covered the entire tropical zone and far north and south.
Science Daily:
…Typically, a mass extinction is followed by a 'dead zone' during which new species are not seen for tens of thousands of years. In this case, the dead zone, during the Early Triassic period which followed, lasted for a perplexingly long period: five million years.
….No fish or marine reptiles were to be found in the tropics, only shellfish, and virtually no land animals existed because their high metabolic rate made it impossible to deal with the extreme temperatures. Only the polar regions provided a refuge from the baking heat.
The simple fact is that Earth’s atmosphere has some very strange properties. Climate dictates the conditions of life. In earlier times, the Earth had 30% oxygen, 10% more than now, which led to gigantic thunderstorms and fires. Insects grew to gigantic sizes. There was a dragonfly called Meganeuron, the size of a hawk.
CO2 is a major player in global climate. The lack of CO2 caused “Snowball Earth", a global Ice Age. Too much CO2 was a big factor in almost wiping out life on Earth during the Permian extinction. CO2 is a great heat conductor. It’s a much heavier molecule than the other gases, so it conducts more heat. Unless CO2 is converted into carbon and oxygen by plants, it builds up in the atmosphere. This is the basic Greenhouse principle, and it’s also responsible for the existence of life on Earth.
The problem is that “managing” billions of tons of CO2 isn’t a simple process. There’s very obviously a threshold volume for CO2 at both high and low levels. The fewer plants, the less control over the CO2.
Some of the most densely inhabited parts of the world would become literally uninhabitable in even a mild repeat of the Permian extinction. Crops couldn’t be grown as they are now, even if anyone could live in that heat. Fish populations would crash.
The more immediately relevant fact is that the dead zone’s starting temperature range was around 50C. There are quite a few areas on Earth at the moment which have summer temperatures in that range, and they’re all dead zones. A few small animals manage to live in these environments.
It’s not entirely redundant to extrapolate the possible scenarios with runaway CO2 in a future situation. So take a look at the areas covered by the same latitudes on the map and extrapolate to modern geography. The area of the dead zone extends from southern Canada to the centers of modern Australia and Brazil. The US and Asia would be largely a desert. The tropics would be gone.
Yes, natural changes do occur. Yes, burning, natural or otherwise, causes a rise in CO2 levels. Gases don’t just “blow away”.
The message for the ridiculous climate change "debate"?
Heat transfer is not negotiable with press releases.
Hot air, wherever it comes from, is dangerous.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Permian extinction, Dead zone, high CO2 levels thermodynamiics, osmosis high temperature range, atmosphere gas mix
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