Volcano eruption: Shock study claims volcanic rock releases carbon, causes global warming

The movement of molten volcanic rock below Earth’s surface has contributed to the most devastating periods of global warming in the last 65 million years. Researchers at the University of Birmingham presented the shocking claim in the journal Nature Communications. The volcanologists modelled past carbon emissions for the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum about 55 million years ago.

During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, carbon emissions caused temperatures around the globe to spike for about 100,000 years.

The researchers traced the carbon emissions to so-called Large Igneous Provinces or LIPs.

LIPs are large concentrations of igneous or magmatic rock that form when molten magma pushes through Earth’s crust towards the surface.

According to the university, one such LIP spanned an area covering Britain, Ireland, Norway and Greenland.


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The LIP is known as the North Atlantic Igneous Province or NAIP and is one of the largest LIPs on Earth.

Dr Stephen Jones who was involved in the study said: “Large Igneous Provinces are linked to spikes of change in global climate, ecosystems and the carbon cycle throughout Mesozoic time – coinciding with the Earth’s most devastating mass extinctions and oceans becoming strongly depleted of oxygen.

“We calculated carbon-based greenhouse gas fluxes associated with the NAIP – linking measurements of the process that generated magma with observations of the individual geological structures that controlled gas emissions.

“These calculations suggest the NAIP caused the largest transient global warming of the past 65 million years.

“More geological measurements are required to reduce the uncertainty range of our solid Earth emissions model, but we believe clarification of this carbon cycle behaviour will impact modelling and management of future climate change.”

Based on the study, the researchers believe greenhouse emissions by LIPs can trigger warming of the climate for more than 10,000 to 100,000 years.

During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, the release of carbon warmed the climate by 4C to 5C degrees.

The warming occurred over a “relatively short period” of just 20,000 years.

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The global warming is believed to have driven a mass extinction of marine wildlife.

The study also aims to provide climate researchers with more insight into theories explaining the ongoing warming of the climate.

Anthropogenic or manmade climate change is widely accepted today as the driving factor behind climate change.

A study published this year in October brought together 500 scientists from around the globe to study the geological releases of greenhouse gases.

After a gruelling 10 years of research, the study concluded human activity is releasing 100 times more carbon dioxide (CO2) than Earth’s volcanoes.

Researchers from The Deep Carbon Observatory concluded humans release about 10 gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

US space agency NASA has also human activity is the leading cause of climate change.

NASA attributed global warming to the release of CO2, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20) as leaving greenhouse gases.

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