On the 8th June in 1783 CE a fissure on Iceland opened and the devastating Laki eruption began. Seemingly a simple basaltic fire-fountaining event, it defied common assumptions about basaltic volcanism by emitting vast amounts of halogens and sulfur species to the atmosphere. The eruption caused severe environmental and climatic changes in the northern hemisphere that lasted for several years. Even with the fidelity of human recordkeeping at the time, scientists today are still investigating why and how the Laki eruption affected the environment. The geologic record reveals that volcanism has occurred on a wide range of scales throughout Earth history, from the formation of small cinder cones to giant flood basalt provinces. Coeval sedimentary records indicate that some of these past eruptions, continental flood basalts in particular, may have caused dramatic changes to the global environment, affecting climate, environmental chemistry, and perhaps triggering mass extinctions. One of the largest of these continental flood basalt eruptions occurred 252 million years ago in present-day Siberia. Much of the lava is thought to have been produced in fissure eruptions, such as Laki in Iceland, and death ensued, not only from starvation. The coeval end-Permian extinction of species was global and came close to eliminating multicellular life in the oceans and, to a lesser extent, on land.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)