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Basalt Floods. The Theory Behind Such Occurences And The Effects And Evidence Of Such Floods On The Earth

757 words - 4 pages

Basalt FloodsMillions of years ago, lava flows poured molten rock over huge areas of theworld. These eruptions, known as basalt floods, hurled noxious gases froEarth's interior into the atmosphere. Toxic clouds ravaged the environment andmay have triggered mass extinction. The weathered remains of flood basalt canstill be seen around the world. but scientists do not yet understand the causeof such vast eruptions. It is such a mystery that a basalt flood could burstfrom the Earth tomorrow undetected.Basalt floods smother whole regions of the Earth in molten rock. They arereleased when immense volumes of magma apply pressure to the Earth's rigid crustuntil it cracks around huge, violent fountains of lava. It can take over amillion years to exhaust the magma supply completely and end the flood.The last major flood eruption covered Washington and Oregon 16 million yearsago and ...view middle of the document...

Eachfissure disgorges sheet of molten rock above ground that may smother up to14,000 square miles of the surface.Successive eruptions expel layer upon layer of basalt - in some places theplateaus lie three miles thick. Flows of hot rock annihilate all life in theirpath. Farther afield, the biosphere reels under clouds of toxic gas thatescape the vast volumes of magma.Eruptions from the Icelandic volcano Laki are the closest that the Earth has toa contemporary basalt flood. In 1783, Lakie began to erupt enormous lavafountains. A single fissure produced a few cubic miles of lava, and its effectson Iceland were catastrophic. Toxic gases and ash all but destroyedagriculture. The resultant famine claimed one fifth of the island's humanpopulation.But in comparison to the massive hemorrhages that earth suffered in the distantpast, Laki is just a tiny leak. Every now and again in geology, as in anyother science, evidence is obtained and presented that cannot easily beexplained in terms of familiar processes or accepted ideas, such is that ofextinction. An eruption theory goes that a good-sized basalt flood would havecreated enough toxic gases and destruction that the atmospheric havoc that drovethe dinosaurs or other prehistoric creatures to their death. It the lavaerupted slowly, the gases would have been realsed more gradually the atmospherecould have recovered in between eruption and death and destruction would havebeen contained locally.It would be desirable to be able to obtain age dates on individual lavas in aflood basalt pile to determine how often these huge eruptions occurred, but thedating methods used do not have sufficent accuracy to pinpoint individual flowsin time - virtually a whole flood basalt field fits within the errors on some ofthe dates. Geologists still do not agree on the frequency of flood eruptions.They are not even sure if the atmospheric effects woul leave the Earth hotter orcooler. It may take a fresh basalt flood to establish the facts- and if theDeccan eruption did kill the dinosaurs, another black tide would be bad news forus.

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