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Picture of the Day

New 'gold standard' timeline connects volcanic eruptions to climate change

Imagine an enormous volcano erupting in the Pacific Northwest, pouring lava across Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Imagine the lava flooding out until river valleys are filled in. Until bushes and shrubs are buried in liquid rock. Until the tallest trees are completely covered. About 16 million years ago, this happened. Lava erupted in pulses, ultimately burying the region to the height of a 30-story building. If the lava had been spread evenly over the lower 48 states instead of staying concentrated in the northwest, it would cover the country to a depth of about 80 feet. Before now, most geologists believed that it took almost 2 million years to erupt all that lava, collectively known as "the Columbia River flood basalts." But National Science Foundation-funded researchers have now published findings that show it happened more than twice as fast as previously believed, with 95 percent erupting within a 750,000-year window. With their more precise timeline, the researchers have now shown that the prehistoric climate change did start very close in time to the beginning of the eruptions, but further work is needed to pin down the connection between them.

Visit Website | Image credit: Jennifer Kasbohm/Princeton University Department of Geosciences