Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Climatic Conditions of the Ordovician

A new article in PhysOrg reports on efforts to get a handle on what led to one of the greatest mass extinctions in the planet's history. Tony Fitzpatrick writes:
A team of researchers, including earth and planetary scientists from Washington University in St. Louis, for the first time has been able to reconstruct both ocean temperature and general ice thickness of massive glaciers during one of the biggest mass extinctions in history hundreds of millions of years ago.

The extinction, which occurred between 445 and 443 million years ago in the Late Ordovician Period, is one of the five biggest mass extinctions in Earth history, wiping out an estimated 75 percent of simple marine species.

The Ordovician glaciation is the only one that coincides with a major mass marine extinction. Shedding light on this ancient event can help reveal clues about the interplay between evolution, climate and environment.
Some might say, big deal. Why is money being spent on something like this? Simply: if it happened once, it can happen again. It also educates us about how the earth came to be the way that it is and helps us understand how it behaves better.

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