Ancient NW Lava Flows Possibly Changed Earth’s Climate Ancient lava flows in the inland Northwest were so big and intense, they may have altered the earth’s climate. That’s the implication of new study co-authored by a Washington State University researcher. Correspondent Tom Banse explains.
NPR logo Ancient NW Lava Flows Possibly Changed Earth’s Climate

Ancient NW Lava Flows Possibly Changed Earth’s Climate

Ancient NW Lava Flows Possibly Changed Earth’s Climate

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Ancient lava flows in the inland Northwest were so big and intense, they may have altered the earth's climate. That's the implication of new study co-authored by a Washington State University researcher.

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On your travels down the highways of eastern Washington, Oregon or western Idaho, you've no doubt noticed angular basalt cliffs. Those are evidence of massive lava flows that repeatedly covered the Columbia basin around 16 million years ago. WSU geologist Steve Reidel was part of a team that recently found the lava flows happened over a shorter time period than previously thought. That suggests a huge, intense eruption with massive releases of volcanic gases and ash.

Steve Reidel: “Not only is it impacting the local environment, it is probably impacting the world environment. The big question is, did it wipe out any of the mammals or anything else around here.”

Reidel says that's what scientists are now looking for fossil evidence of. He and his co-authors published in the latest issue of the journal Lithos.

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