Massive release of hydrogen sulfide to the surface ocean and atmosphere during intervals of oceanic anoxia

Lee R. Kump, Alexander Pavlov, Michael A. Arthur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

377 Scopus citations

Abstract

Simple calculations show that if deep-water H2S concentrations increased beyond a critical threshold during oceanic anoxic intervals of Earth history, the chemocline separating sulfidic deep waters from oxygenated surface waters could have risen abruptly to the ocean surface (a chemocline upward excursion). Atmospheric photochemical modeling indicates that resulting fluxes of H2S to the atmosphere (>2000 times the small modern flux from volcanoes) would likely have led to toxic levels of H2S in the atmosphere. Moreover, the ozone shield would have been destroyed, and methane levels would have risen to >100 ppm. We thus propose (1) chemocline upward excursion as a kill mechanism during the end-Permian, Late Devonian, and Cenomanian-Turonian extinctions, and (2) persistently high atmospheric H2S levels as a factor that impeded evolution of eukaryotic life on land during the Proterozoic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-400
Number of pages4
JournalGeology
Volume33
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology

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