The Day The Earth Nearly Died

250 million years ago, long before dinosaurs roamed the Earth, the land and oceans teemed with life. This was the Permian, a golden era of biodiversity that was about to come to a crashing end. Within just a few thousand years, 95% of the lifeforms on the planet would be wiped out, in the biggest mass extinction Earth has ever known. What natural disaster could kill on such a massive scale? It is only in recent years that evidence has begun to emerge from rocks in Antarctica, Siberia and Greenland.

The demise of the dinosaurs, 65 million years ago (at the so-called K/T boundary), was as nothing compared to the Permian mass extinction. The K/T event killed off 60% of life on Earth; the Permian event 95%. Geological data to explain the destruction have been hard to find, simply because the rocks are so old and therefore subject to all kinds of erosion processes. It seems plausible that some kind of catastrophic environmental change must have made life untenable across vast swathes of the planet.

In the early 1990s, the hunt for evidence headed for a region of Siberia known as the Traps. Today it’s a sub-Arctic wilderness but 250 million years ago, over 200,000km² of it was a blazing torrent of lava. The Siberian Traps were experiencing a ‘flood basalt eruption’, the biggest volcanic effect on Earth. Instead of isolated volcanoes spewing out lava, the crust split and curtains of lava were released. And the Siberian flood eruption lasted for millions of years. Could volcanic activity over such a long time alter the climate enough to kill off 95% of life on Earth?

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  1. An excellent documentary. What this shows is that mass extinctions take many thousands, indeed tens of thousands of years to occur. Life on earth is resilient. Even two catastrophic events, in this case super volcanic eruptions followed by a 15km meteor impact, did not extinguish life on earth. The lesson for human beings is this: we should not focus on pompous notions of “saving the planet” because we do not have the power to destroy or save all life on this planet. We do have the power to destroy or save ourselves. If we were to choose the former life on earth would continue and the planet would not miss us.

  2. Scientifically interesting, but difficult to watch because it is very high on the sensational dramatization used in trying to “make” it interesting to those not already basically familiar with the subject of interest.

  3. Absolutely nothing is to be gained by sticking one’s dinosaur head in the tar pits of scripture. Makes about as much relevant sense as using this for a “gay” forum for wanking about some anemic twilight.

    This film is extremely important – and should inform our long-range strategy as a now (hopefully) conscious evolving symbiotic species.

  4. There is a christian scripture which predicts that all life in the sea dies.It is obvious that the frozen methane stores beneath the oceans are still capable of repeating what is described in this video. It is a bowl of wrath. So also x-class solar flares that scorch the earth, so too the earth reeling like a drunken man a description of an earth axis shift. Whither you believe scripture or not the odds of this happening again are very good.

  5. This is a great documentary, very interesting video, great to watch.

  6. i surely trust that not any of you downloaded new moon movie from is a picture to be set eys on ONLY at cinemas. now that eclipse is out i hope you guys enjoy it in cinemas yet again. lets make this twilight era a massive success. – Passionate Fan