Volcanic Event Caused Ice Age During Jurassic Period - Study Reveals New Findings

First Posted: Dec 11, 2015 01:49 PM EST

A team of international researchers have found that a volcanic event resulted in an ice age on earth 170 million years ago, during the Jurassic period, according to a studyThe researchers found evidence of a large and abrupt cooling of the earth's temperature during the Jurassic Period, which likely lasted millions of years.

The researchers found that this cooling coincided with a massive volcanic event at the time, known as North Sea Dome, which hindered the flow of ocean water and the heat that it carried from the equator to areas in the North Pole. The researchers believe that the volcanic event prevented ocean flow instead of changing CO2 in levels in the atmosphere, and this might have led to an extensive ice age during a period that involved warm-weather patterns.

"We tend to think of the Jurassic as a warm 'greenhouse' world where high temperatures were governed by high atmospheric carbon dioxide contents," Professor Stephen Hesselbo, co-author of the study, said in a news release. "This new study suggests that reorganization of oceanic current patterns may also have triggered large scale climate changes."

During the Jurassic Period, the earth was made up of a super-continent 'Pangaea.' This super-continent had a broad seaway across it that connected a north polar sea to 'Tethys', which was a warm equatorial sea.

The researchers used fossilized mollusk shells to help them create a record of seawater temperature chang. It them took 10 years to create the model. They found that the earth underwent a massive and fast cooling in temperature at the time when the North Sea Dome event occurred.

The volcanic event prevented the poleward flow of ocean water and heat, which changed the northern hemisphere's warm-weather pattern into a frigid icy climate. This cold climate lasted for millions of years until the North Sea Dome was diminished.

"This work suggests a mechanism at play that may also have been important for driving other climate change events in the Jurassic and at other times in Earth history," Hesselbo said.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Nature Communications.

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