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A Paleoclimatic Simulation of the Late Permian Greenhouse World and Its Consequences

MOORE, GEORGE T., STEPHEN R. JACOBSON, and DARRYL N. HAYASHIDA, Chevron Oil Field Research Company, La Habra, CA

Sea-floor spreading assembled all the major cratonic blocks into a single supercontinent once in the Phanerozoic Eon. This unique Late Permian crustal tectonic event produced Pangaea and an enormous oceanic basin volume that dropped sea level to a global lowstand unrivaled in the Phanerozoic.

Two paleoclimatic simulations using a numerical three-dimensional general circulation model tested changes in the greenhouse effect. We conclude that for a simulation to fit the Late Permian geologic record, the paleoatmosphere must contain an enhanced greenhouse gas effect. The meridionally oriented supercontinent forced both strong seasonality and arid interiors. A third simulation tested changes of paleogeography in southern Pangaea (Gondwana) that did not appreciably alter the harsh continental paleoclimate.

The simulated paleoclimatic changes provide extraordinarily warm ocean and atmosphere, and a significant reduction in continental rainfall and runoff. These conditions inevitably lead to more aridity and less vegetation on land, gradually reduce the delivery of vital nutrients from continental sources to marine margins, systematically liberate CO(2) dissolved in ocean water, and incrementally increase stress on marine and terrestrial biotas. These consequences severely disrupted rates of oxygen and carbon cycling. Our quantitative paleoclimatic simulation is consistent with distributions of red beds, evaporites, coals, marine shelf areas, seawater isotope trends, and paleontologic originations and extinctions. Thus, the Pangaean plate assembly probably triggered an inexorable sequence of geophysical, geochemical, and biological events that forced an elevated greenhouse effect in the Late Permian, nearly annihilating the Phanerozoic biota.

 

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91004 © 1991 AAPG Annual Convention Dallas, Texas, April 7-10, 1991 (2009)