Climate change can goad volcanoes into life

Article: Magmatic pulse driven by sea-level changes associated with the Messinian salinity crisis,  P. Sternai, L. Caricchi, D. Garcia-Castellanos, L. Jolivet, T. Sheldrake and S. Castelltort, Nature Geoscience, in press

The possibility that temporary closure of the Gibraltar gateway and isolation of the Mediterranean from the Atlantic during the Messinian Salinity Crisis (5.96 My ago) led to near complete desiccation of the Mediterranean has been debated for more than four decades, but no definitive proof of this has yet been found. Significant and fast reductions in sea level, however, unload the Earth’s surface, which can increase the volcanic activity. We thus analyzed the available data and recognized a two-fold increase of the Mediterranean volcanic and magmatic activity synchronous to the proposed desiccation event. Numerical modeling demonstrates that abrupt kilometre-scale lowering of the Mediterranean Sea can cause the observed increase in volcanic activity. We thus conclude that the Mediterranean magmatic record provides a strong argument in favour of a kilometre-scale drawdown of the Mediterranean sea during the Messinian salinity crisis. Our results also imply that the volcanic activity is particularly sensitive to variations of the surface conditions involved by, for instance, past and ongoing climate changes.

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September 26, 2017

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