Methane-driven oceanic eruptions and mass extinctions

Gregory Ryskin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Focusing on the Permian-Triassic boundary, ca. 251 Ma, I explore the possibility that mass extinction can be caused by an extremely fast, explosive release of dissolved methane (and other dissolved gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide) that accumulated in the oceanic water masses prone to stagnation and anoxia (e.g., in silled basins). The mechanism of the explosive release is the same as in the Lake Nyos disaster of 1986, i.e., a water-column eruption caused by the interplay of buoyancy forces and exsolution of dissolved gas. The eruption brings to the surface deep anoxic waters that cause extinctions in the marine realm. Terrestrial extinctions are caused by explosions and conflagrations that follow the massive release of methane (the air-methane mixture is explosive at methane concentrations between 5% and 15%) and by the eruption-triggered floods. This scenario accounts well for the available data, and may be relevant to other phenomena.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)741-744
Number of pages4
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2003


  • Mass extinctions
  • Methane
  • Permian-Triassic boundary

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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