2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 63-4
Presentation Time: 2:00 PM

CLIMATIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS OF SULFUR EMITTED BY LARGE-SCALE FLOOD BASALT ERUPTION


SCHMIDT, Anja, University of Leeds, School of Earth and Environment, Leeds, LS2 9JT, United Kingdom, a.schmidt@leeds.ac.uk

Continental flood basalt (CFB) volcanism has been temporally, and therefore causally, linked to periods of environmental crisis in the past 260 Ma. The majority of the proposed causal relationships are, however, qualitative, in particular the potential climatic and environmental effects of large amounts of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emitted to the atmosphere. CFB provinces are typically formed by numerous individual eruptions, each lasting years to decades, with highly uncertain periods of quiescence lasting hundreds to thousands of years.

I will present results obtained from a global aerosol-climate model set-up to simulate the sulfur-induced climatic and environmental effects of individual decade to century-long CFB eruptions. For sulfur dioxide emissions representative of a single decade-long eruption in the 65 Ma Deccan Trap Volcanic Province, the model predicts a substantial reduction in global surface temperature of 4.5 K, which is in good agreement with multi-proxy palaeo-temperature records. However, the calculated cooling is short-lived and temperatures recover within less than 50 years once volcanic activity ceases. In contrast to previous studies, I show that acid rain from decade-long eruptions cannot cause widespread vegetation stress or loss due to the buffering capacities of soils. The direct exposure of vegetation to acid mists and fogs, however, could cause damage where the exposure is high and sustained, such as at high elevations. Finally, I will use these modeling results to place constraints on the likely environmental effects and habitability by simulating different eruption frequencies and durations as well as hiatus periods and by comparing to the proxy records.