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Siberian Traps

Coordinates: 67°N 90°E / 67°N 90°E / 67; 90
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The extent of the Siberian Traps (map in German)

The Siberian Traps (Russian: Сибирские траппы, romanizedSibirskiye trappy) is a large region of volcanic rock, known as a large igneous province, in Siberia, Russia. The massive eruptive event that formed the traps is one of the largest known volcanic events in the last 500 million years.

The eruptions continued for roughly two million years and spanned the PermianTriassic boundary, or P–T boundary, which occurred around 251.9 million years ago. The Siberian Traps are believed to be the primary cause of the Permian–Triassic extinction event, the most severe extinction event in the geologic record.[1][2][3][4] Subsequent periods of Siberian Traps activity have been linked to a number of smaller biotic crises, including the Smithian-Spathian, Olenekian-Anisian, Middle-Late Anisian, and Anisian-Ladinian extinction events.[5]

Large volumes of basaltic lava covered a large expanse of Siberia in a flood basalt event. Today, the area is covered by about 7 million km2 (3 million sq mi) of basaltic rock, with a volume of around 4 million km3 (1 million cu mi).[6]


The term "trap" has been used in geology since 1785–1795 for such rock formations. It is derived from the Swedish word for stairs ("trappa") and refers to the step-like hills forming the landscape of the region.[7]


Step-like geomorphology at the Putorana Plateau, which is a World Heritage Site.

The source of the Siberian Traps basaltic rock has been attributed to a mantle plume, which rose until it reached the bottom of the Earth's crust, producing volcanic eruptions through the Siberian Craton.[8] It has been suggested that, as the Earth's lithospheric plates moved over the mantle plume (the Iceland plume), the plume produced the Siberian Traps in the Permian and Triassic periods, after earlier producing the Viluy Traps to the east, and later going on to produce volcanic activity on the floor of the Arctic Ocean in the Jurassic and Cretaceous, and then generating volcanic activity in Iceland.[9] Other plate tectonic causes have also been suggested.[8] Another possible cause may be the impact that formed the Wilkes Land crater in Antarctica, which is estimated to have occurred around the same time and been nearly antipodal to the traps.[10]

The main source of rock in this formation is basalt, but both mafic and felsic rocks are present, so this formation is officially called a Flood Basalt Province. The inclusion of mafic and felsic rock indicates multiple other eruptions that occurred and coincided with the one-million-year-long set of eruptions that created the majority of the basaltic layers. The traps are divided into sections based on their chemical, stratigraphical, and petrographical composition.[6]

The Siberian traps are underlain by the Tungus Syneclise, a large sedimentary basin containing thick sequences of Early-Mid Paleozoic aged carbonate and evaporite deposits, as well as Carboniferous-Permian aged coal bearing clastic rocks. When heated, such as by igneous intrusions, these rocks are capable of emitting large amounts of toxic and greenhouse gases.[11]

Effects on prehistoric life[edit]

The Putorana Plateau is composed of Siberian Traps.

One of the major questions is whether the Siberian Traps were directly responsible for the Permian–Triassic mass extinction event that occurred 250 million years ago,[12] or if they were themselves caused by some other, larger event, such as an asteroid impact. One hypothesis put forward is that the volcanism triggered the growth of Methanosarcina, a microbe that then emitted large amounts of methane into Earth's atmosphere,[13] ultimately altering the Earth's carbon cycle based on observations such as a significant increase of inorganic carbon reservoirs in marine environments.[13] Recent research has highlighted the impact of vegetative deposition in the preceding Carboniferous period on the severity of the disruption to the carbon cycle.[14]

This extinction event, also colloquially called the Great Dying, affected all life on Earth, and is estimated to have led to the extinction of about 81% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species living at the time.[15][16][17] Some of the disastrous events that affected the Earth continued to repeat themselves five to six million years after the initial extinction occurred.[18] Over time a small portion of the life that survived the extinction was able to repopulate and expand starting with low trophic levels (producers) until the higher trophic levels (consumers) were able to be re-established.[18] Calculations of sea water temperature from δ18O measurements indicate that at the peak of the extinction, the Earth underwent lethally hot global warming, in which equatorial ocean temperatures exceeded 40 °C (104 °F).[19] It took roughly eight to nine million years for any diverse ecosystem to be re-established; however, new classes of animals were established after the extinction that did not exist beforehand.[18]

Palaeontological evidence further indicates that the global distribution of tetrapods vanished between latitudes approximating 40° south to 30° north, with very rare exceptions in the region of Pangaea that is today Utah. This tetrapod gap of equatorial Pangaea coincides with an end-Permian to Middle Triassic global "coal gap" that indicates the loss of peat swamps. Peat formation, a product of high plant productivity, was reestablished only in the Anisian stage of the Triassic, and even then only in high southern latitudes, although gymnosperm forests appeared earlier (in the Early Spathian), but again only in northern and southern higher latitudes.[20] In equatorial Pangaea, the establishment of conifer-dominated forests was not until the end of the Spathian, and the first coals at these latitudes did not appear until the Carnian, around 15 million years after their end-Permian disappearance. These signals suggest equatorial temperatures exceeded their thermal tolerance for many marine vertebrates at least during two thermal maxima, whereas terrestrial equatorial temperatures were sufficiently severe to suppress plant and animal abundance during most of the Early Triassic.[21]


The volcanism that occurred in the Siberian Traps resulted in copious amounts of magma being ejected from the Earth's crust—leaving permanent traces of rock from the same time period of the mass extinction that can be examined today.[22] More specifically, zircon is found in some of the volcanic rocks. To further the accuracy of the age of the zircon, several varying aged pieces of zircon were organized into a timeline based on when they crystallized.[22] The CA-TIMS technique, a chemical abrasion age-dating technique that eliminates variability in accuracy due to lead depletion in zircon over time,[23] was then used to accurately determine the age of the zircons found in the Siberian Traps. Eliminating the variability due to lead, the CA-TIMS age-dating technique allowed uranium within the zircon to be the centre focus in linking the volcanism in the Siberian Traps that resulted in high amounts of magmatic material with the Permian–Triassic mass extinction.[22]

Layers of igneous rock from the Putorana Plateau.

To further the connection with the Permian–Triassic extinction event, other disastrous events occurred around the same time period, such as sea level changes, meteor impacts and volcanism.[17] Specifically focusing on volcanism, rock samples from the Siberian Traps and other southern regions were obtained and compared.[24] Basalts and gabbro samples from several southern regions close to and from the Siberian Traps were dated based on argon isotope 40 and argon isotope 39 age-dating methods.[24] Feldspar and biotite was specifically used to focus on the samples' age and duration of the presence of magma from the volcanic event in the Siberian Traps.[24] The majority of the basalt and gabbro samples dated to 250 million years ago, covered a surface area of five million square kilometres on the Siberian Traps[24] and occurred within a short period of time with rapid rock solidification/cooling.[25] Studies confirmed that samples of gabbro and basalt from the same time period of the Permian–Triassic event from the other southern regions also matched the age of samples within the Siberian Traps. This confirms the assumption of the linkage between the age of volcanic rocks within the Siberian Traps, along with rock samples from other southern regions to the Permian–Triassic mass extinction event.[25]

Mineral deposits[edit]

A sample of Siberian Traps basalt (dark) containing native iron

The giant Norilsk-Talnakh nickelcopperpalladium deposit formed within the magma conduits in the most complete part of the Siberian Traps.[26] It has been linked to the Permian–Triassic extinction event, which occurred approximately 251.4 million years ago,[17] based on large amounts of nickel and other elements found in rock beds that were laid down after the extinction occurred.[27] The method used to correlate the extinction event with the surplus amount of nickel located in the Siberian Traps compares the timeline of the magmatism within the traps and the timeline of the extinction itself.[28] Before the linkage between magmatism and the extinction event was discovered, it was hypothesized that the mass extinction and volcanism occurred at the same time due to the linkages in rock composition.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kamo, SL (2003). "Rapid eruption of Siberian flood-volcanic rocks and evidence for coincidence with the Permian–Triassic boundary and mass extinction at 251 Ma". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 214 (1–2): 75–91. Bibcode:2003E&PSL.214...75K. doi:10.1016/S0012-821X(03)00347-9.
  2. ^ Sun, Yadong; Joachimski, Wignall, Yan, Chen, Jiang, Wang, La (October 27, 2013). "Lethally Hot Temperatures During the Early Triassic Greenhouse". Science. 338 (6105): 366–70. Bibcode:2012Sci...338..366S. doi:10.1126/science.1224126. PMID 23087244. S2CID 41302171.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ "New Studies of Permian Extinction Shed Light On the Great Dying", New York Times, April 30, 2012. Retrieved on May 2, 2012.
  4. ^ Krivolutskaya, N. A.; Konyshev, A. A.; Kuzmin, D. V.; Nikogosian, I. K.; Krasheninnikov, S. P.; Gongalsky, B. I.; Demidova, S. I.; Mironov, N. L.; Svirskaya, N. M.; Fedulov, V. S. (2022-12-01). "Is the Permian–Triassic Mass Extinction Related to the Siberian Traps?". Geochemistry International. 60 (13): 1323–1351. Bibcode:2022GeocI..60.1323K. doi:10.1134/S0016702922130067. hdl:1871.1/bf9f35ef-57e6-4acb-826f-22cad723e69d. ISSN 1556-1968. S2CID 256946122.
  5. ^ Paton, M. T.; Ivanov, A. V.; Fiorentini, M. L.; McNaughton, M. J.; Mudrovska, I.; Reznitskii, L. Z.; Demonterova, E. I. (1 September 2010). "Late Permian and Early Triassic magmatic pulses in the Angara–Taseeva syncline, Southern Siberian Traps and their possible influence on the environment". Russian Geology and Geophysics. 51 (9): 1012–1020. Bibcode:2010RuGG...51.1012P. doi:10.1016/j.rgg.2010.08.009. Retrieved 12 January 2023.
  6. ^ a b Ivanov, Alexei V.; He, Huayiu; Yan, Liekun; Ryabov, Viktor V.; Shevko, Artem Y.; Palesskii, Stanislav V.; Nikolaeva, Irina V. (2013). "Siberian Traps large igneous province: Evidence for two flood basalt pulses around the Permo-Triassic boundary and in the Middle Triassic, and contemporaneous granitic magmatism". Earth-Science Reviews. 122: 58–76. Bibcode:2013ESRv..122...58I. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2013.04.001.
  7. ^ Trap at dictionary.reference.com
  8. ^ a b Foulger, G.R. (2010). Plates vs. Plumes: A Geological Controversy. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-6148-0.
  9. ^ Morgan, W. Jason; Morgan, Jason Phipps (2007), "Plate velocities in hotspot reference frame: electronic supplement" (PDF), in Foulger, Gillian R.; Jurdy, Donna M. (eds.), Plates, Plumes, and Planetary Processes, Geological Society of America, ISBN 9780813724300, retrieved 2017-02-25
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  12. ^ Erwin, Douglas H. (January 1994). "The Permo-Triassic Extinction". Nature. 367 (6460): 231–236. Bibcode:1994Natur.367..231E. doi:10.1038/367231a0. S2CID 4328753.
  13. ^ a b Alm, Eric J.; Boyle, Edward A.; Cao, Changqun; Fournier, Gregory P.; French, Katherine L.; Rothman, Daniel H.; Summons, Roger E. (April 2014). "Methanogenic Burst in the End-Permian Carbon Cycle". PNAS. 111 (15): 5462–5467. Bibcode:2014PNAS..111.5462R. doi:10.1073/pnas.1318106111. PMC 3992638. PMID 24706773.
  14. ^ Elkins-Tanton, L.T. (June 2020). "Field evidence for coal combustion links the 252 Ma Siberian Traps with global carbon disruption". Geology. 10 (48): 986–991. Bibcode:2020Geo....48..986E. doi:10.1130/G47365.1.
  15. ^ Benton M J (2005). When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-28573-2.
  16. ^ Brannen, Peter (2017-07-29). "Opinion | when Life on Earth Was Nearly Extinguished". The New York Times.
  17. ^ a b c Becker, Luann; Poreda, Robert J.; Hunt, Andrew G.; Bunch, Theodore E.; Rampino, Michael (23 Feb 2001). "Impact Event at the Permian-Triassic Boundary: Evidence from Extraterrestrial Noble Gases in Fullerenes". Science. 291 (5508): 1530–1533. Bibcode:2001Sci...291.1530B. doi:10.1126/science.1057243. PMID 11222855. S2CID 45230096.
  18. ^ a b c Benton, Michael J.; Chen, Zhong-Qiang (May 2012). "The Timing and Pattern of Biotic Recovery Following the End-Permian Mass Extinction". Nature Geoscience. 5 (6): 375–383. Bibcode:2012NatGe...5..375C. doi:10.1038/ngeo1475. S2CID 55342040.
  19. ^ Sun, Yadong; Joachimski, Michael M.; Wignall, Paul B.; Yan, Chunbo; Chen, Yanlong; Jiang, Haishui; Wang, Lina; Lai, Xulong (19 Oct 2012). "Lethally Hot Temperatures During the Early Triassic Greenhouse". Science. 338 (6105): 366–370. Bibcode:2012Sci...338..366S. doi:10.1126/science.1224126. PMID 23087244. S2CID 41302171.
  20. ^ "Could Siberian volcanism have caused the Earth's largest extinction event?", Eurekalert!, 9 January 2012. Retrieved on 12 January 2012.
  21. ^ Sun, Yadong; Joachimski, Wignall, Yan, Chen, Jiang, Wang, La (October 27, 2013). "Lethally Hot Temperatures During the Early Triassic Greenhouse". Science. 338 (6105): 366–70. Bibcode:2012Sci...338..366S. doi:10.1126/science.1224126. PMID 23087244. S2CID 41302171.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ a b c d Burgess, Seth D.; Bowring, Samuel A. (28 August 2015). "High-precision geochronology confirms voluminous magmatism before, during, and after the Earth's most severe extinction". Earth Science. 1 (7): e1500470. Bibcode:2015SciA....1E0470B. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1500470. PMC 4643808. PMID 26601239.
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  24. ^ a b c d Allen, M.B.; et al. (January 2009). "The Timing and Extent of the Eruption of the Siberian Traps Large Igneous Province: Implications for the End-Permian Environmental Crisis". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 277 (1–2): 9–20. Bibcode:2009E&PSL.277....9R. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2008.09.030. hdl:2381/4204.
  25. ^ a b Basu, A.R.; Renne, P.R. (July 1991). "Rapid Eruption of the Siberian Traps Flood Basalts at the Permo-Triassic Boundary". Science. 253 (5016): 176–179. Bibcode:1991Sci...253..176R. doi:10.1126/science.253.5016.176. PMID 17779134. S2CID 6374682.
  26. ^ Ryabov, V. V.; Shevko, A. Ya.; Gora, M. P. (2014). Trap Magmatism and Ore Formation in the Siberian Noril'sk Region (Volume 1: Trap Petrology). Springer Netherlands. ISBN 978-94-007-5021-0.
  27. ^ Barnes, Stephen; Mungall, Emma; Mungall, James; Le Vaillant, Margaux (February 2017). "Role of Degassing of the Noril'sk Nickel Deposits in the Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction Event". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 114 (10): 2485–2490. Bibcode:2017PNAS..114.2485L. doi:10.1073/pnas.1611086114. PMC 5347598. PMID 28223492.
  28. ^ Bowring, S.A.; Muirhead, J.D.; Burgess, S.D. (July 2017). "Initial Pulse of Siberian Traps Sills As The Trigger of the End-Permian Mass Extinction". Nature Communications. 8 (1): 1–6. Bibcode:2017NatCo...8....1B. doi:10.1038/s41467-016-0009-6. PMC 5431875. PMID 28232747.

External links[edit]

67°N 90°E / 67°N 90°E / 67; 90