Global warming could spark an 'apocalyptic' extinction event
Researchers believe global warming sparked the biggest ever mass extinction in Earth's history and now experts fear a repeat could happen soon.
Around 250 million years ago, roughly 90 per cent of all living things were lost in the 'Permian mass extinction' event, with scientists still uncertain of the exact cause.
Now experts, who previously suspected meteor strikes and huge volcanic eruptions, believe the disaster was actually sparked by global warming.
They say large amounts of methane were released into the atmosphere which had "catastrophic" results.
In a paper published in the Palaeoworld journal, the team said: "Based on measurements of gases trapped in calcite, the release of methane is deemed the ultimate source and cause for the dramatic life-changing global warming observed at the end Permian.
Methane trapped in the Arctic could spark a mass extinction event
"Global warming triggered by the massive release of carbon dioxide may be catastrophic, but the release of methane from hydrate may be apocalyptic."
They warned Earth could heading towards a devastating repeat of the catastrophe if methane, trapped in Arctic shelves, was to be released due to melting ice caps.
Professor Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University team, agreed with their theory.
Extreme weather in pictures
Fri, October 28, 2016
The weather across the world is getting wilder and weirder, causing chaos, death and destruction around the globe.
Get Quotes on Home Insurance
Caters News Agency
1 of 96
These frightening photos of lightning from a hurricane above Miami, Florida in the USA were taken after the storm left a trail of destruction in the Caribbean.
He said: "If there were a large methane release, which is now possible because of the instability of the methane hydrates underneath the Arctic continental shelves, the off-shore waters, that could quite easily give rise to a very large pulse.
“That modern threat is very real and very serious and has been disregarded a lot by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change… I feel strongly about it.”
Scientists believe a mass extinction event could happen soon
However, he urged against over-reacting to what was still just a theory.
Professor Wadhams also disagreed with the sensationalist paper title, 'Methane hydrate: Killer cause of Earth’s greatest mass extinction'.
Scientists have spotted similarities between global warming today and 250 million years ago
He said: "There’s a serious tendency these days to offer a breathless overkill on the importance of a discovery. The title of the paper is over the top.
“Methane may or may not be the cause of the extinctions described. The evidence is equivocal. It doesn’t justify all the razzamatazz.”