Enormous volcanoes vomited lava over the ancient Earth much more often than geologists had suspected. Eruptions as big as the biggest previously known ones happened at least 10 times in the past 3 billion years, an analysis of the geological record shows.
Such eruptions are linked with some of the most profound changes in Earth’s history. These include the biggest mass extinction, which happened 252 million years ago when volcanoes blanketed Siberia with molten rock and poisonous gases.
Ernst presented the findings this month to an industry consortium that funded the work (see ‘Earth’s biggest eruptions’). He expects to make the data public by the end of the year, through a map from the Commission for the Geological Map of the World in Paris.