Encyclopedia of Paleoclimatology and Ancient Environments

2009 Edition
| Editors: Vivien Gornitz

Flood Basalts: Climatic Implications

  • Andrew D. Saunders
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4411-3_87


Flood basalts represent large-volume, predominantly effusive, eruptions of magma onto the Earth’s surface. The volume of the largest flows exceeds 1,000 km3, some two orders of magnitude greater than the historic basalt flows found on Iceland and Hawaii. Magma contains dissolved volatiles that exsolve as the magma depressurizes and may be released into the atmosphere during and after the eruption. It is these aerosols, a cocktail including dust, H2O, CO2, SO2, HF, and HCl, that have been implicated in climatic change. This has led some authors to propose causative links between flood basalt volcanism, climate change, and mass extinctions (McLean, 1985; Courtillot, 1999; Wignall, 2001). They suggest that dust and volatiles injected into the atmosphere lead to successive, short-term changes in atmospheric composition and temperature, leading ultimately to collapse of global ecosystems. The causative links between large-scale flood basalt volcanism and mass extinctions are,...

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  • Andrew D. Saunders

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