How does plate tectonics affect climate change?

1 Answer
Jun 15, 2016

Massive volcanic eruptions have been known to trip the world into global warming events that caused mass extinctions.


In the short-term, say less than 1000 years, plate tectonics usually doesn't have a big impact on climate. Right now the main driver of climate change is human burning of fossil fuels and clearing forests.

However, on longer time periods (millions of years or so) plate tectonics is responsible for setting off massive global warming events. The end of the Ordovician and the end Permian are two examples. This may correlate to times when mantel plumes rise up and break up large supercontinents.

In the process, these volcanic eruptions have spew out billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere and this can go on for 10s of thousands or even millions of years. This can, in turn, set off major biological extinction events and this also re-directs the trajectory of evolution. Losers die off and open up ecological niches of the winners to dominate.