BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A new study from the Washington State University has taken a closer look at one of the largest volcanic eruptions known to have taken place on our planet.
This occurred some 16.5 million years ago, during the Miocene Climatic Optimum or the MCO. Previous research has shown that, during this period, our planet was passing through a period of cooling. This was estimated to have lasted for some 50 million years and then to have been followed by a small increase in temperature.
The Wapshilla Ridge, a Result of this Massive Volcanic Eruption
Volcanic eruptions are some of history’s most important events as scientists point out their close links to many events over the course of our planetary evolution.
Now, the latest research took a closer look at one of the most massive volcanic eruptions known to have taken place on Earth. The scientists approximate that this might have occurred some 16.5 million years ago. Its vents were detected to have been located in what is now present-day Washington as well as in Northwest Oregon.
Its flow of basalt is estimated to have reached from the Pacific Ocean all the way to Canada. In turn, this is believed to have led to the formation of what is now known as the Wapshilla Ridge Member, part of the Grande Ronde Basalt, a kilometer-thick block. It is also the currently largest known basalt flood map.
According to the new study, this massive basalt unit also points to the presence of giant sulfur clouds that must have engulfed the Earth after the eruption. The basalt flood of this gigantic outbreak was approximated to have released somewhere between 242 billion to 305 billion tons of Sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere.
This latest research suggests that one of the consequences of this sulfur cloud was a food shortage all across the planet’s northern hemisphere. The eruption that created the Wapshilla Ridge coincides, according to research, to another drop in temperature during the MCO.
The team believes that better understanding this period, an important frame of reference in our planet’s history, might help shed new light on the current climate trends.
Detailed study findings of the current research are available in the journal Geology.
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