Pulses in Silicic Arc Magmatism Initiate End-Permian Climate Instability and Extinction

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Brief pulses of intense volcanic eruptions along convergent margins emit substantial volatiles that drive climatic excursions that can lead to major extinction events. However, correlating volcanic outpouring to environmental crises in the geological past is often difficult due to poor preservation of volcanic sequences and the need for precise dating methods. Here we present a high-fidelity CA-TIMS U–Pb zircon record of an end-Permian flare-up event in eastern Australia, which involved the eruption of >39,000–150,000 km3 of silicic magma in circa 4.21 ± 0.5 million years. A correlated high-resolution tephra record (circa 260–249 Ma) in the proximal sedimentary basins suggests recurrence of eruptions from the volcanic field in intervals of ~51,000–145,000 years. Peak eruption activity at 253 ± 0.5 million years ago is chronologically associated with intervals of pronounced species decline and the demise of the Glossopteris forests in the initial stages of the end-Permian mass extinction event (~1–2 Myr). Simultaneous eruptions along multiple arcs around the globe occurred at the same time as eastern Australia. In conjunction, these global eruptions are considered as a trigger of greenhouse crises and ecosystem stress that preceded the catastrophic eruption of the Siberian Traps.