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Radiometric constraints on the timing, tempo, and effects of large igneous province emplacement

January 8, 2021

There is an apparent temporal correlation between large igneous province (LIP) emplacement and global environmental crises, including mass extinctions. Advances in the precision and accuracy of geochronology in the past decade have significantly improved estimates of the timing and duration of LIP emplacement, mass extinction events, and global climate perturbations, and in general have supported a temporal link between them. In this chapter, we review available geochronology of LIPs and of global extinction or climate events. We begin with an overview of the methodological advances permitting improved precision and accuracy in LIP geochronology. We then review the characteristics and geochronology of 12 LIP/event couplets from the past 700 Ma of Earth history, comparing the relative timing of magmatism and global change, and assessing the chronologic support for LIPs playing a causal role in Earth's climatic and biotic crises. We find that (1) improved geochronology in the last decade has shown that nearly all well-dated LIPs erupted in < 1 Ma, irrespective of tectonic setting; (2) for well-dated LIPs with correspondingly well-dated mass extinctions, the LIPs began several hundred ka prior to a relatively short duration extinction event; and (3) for LIPs with a convincing temporal connection to mass extinctions, there seems to be no single characteristic that makes a LIP deadly. Despite much progress, higher precision geochronology of both eruptive and intrusive LIP events and better chronologies from extinction and climate proxy records will be required to further understand how these catastrophic volcanic events have changed the course of our planet's surface evolution.