Geology Tackles an Earlier Time That It Got Hot

Pause for thought!

Wickersham's Conscience

Model stages: 1, progressive thermo-mechanical weakening of the sub-continental lithospheric mantle (SCLM) by the Iceland plume; 2, disruption of the ruptured metasomatized SCLM zone by incipient asthenospheric upwelling; 3, delamination of carbonated fragments of the deep SCLM during lithospheric stretching, which generate the enduring enriched components (‘EM1’) still present in the Icelandic mantle today

About 56 million years ago, the Earth experienced something called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). The Earth’s atmosphere warmed by about 6.5° C, and sea surface temperatures by about 5° C. There was serious ocean acidification, which is associated with very high CO2 levels in the atmosphere. It’s too long after the Dinosaur Killer’s cataclysmic arrival 9 million years earlier for that catastrophe to have played a role. After the PETM, it took about 170,000 years for the planet to cool back down to pre-PETM levels.

Geologists have suspected that the contemporaneous opening of the northern Atlantic Ocean by rifting might…

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