Permian-Triassic boundary sections from Armenia were studied for carbon isotopes of carbonates as well as oxygen isotopes of conodont apatite in order to constrain the global significance of earlier reported variations in the isotope proxies and elaborate the temporal relationship between carbon cycle changes, global warming and Siberian Trap volcanism. Carbon isotope records of the Chanakhchi and Vedi II sections show a 3−5‰ negative excursion that start in the Clarkina nodosa (C. yini) conodont Zone (latest Permian) with minimum values recorded in Hindeodus parvus to Isarcicella isarcica conodont zones (earliest Triassic). Sea surface temperatures (SST) reconstructed from oxygen isotopes of conodont apatite increase by 8−10 °C over an extrapolated time interval of ∼39 ka with the onset of global warming occurring in the C. iranica (C. meishanensis) Zone of the latest Permian. Climate warming documented in the Armenian sections is comparable to published time-equivalent shifts in SST in Iran and South China suggesting that this temperature change represents a true global signature. By correlating the Armenian and Iranian section with the radiometrically well-dated Meishan GSSP (Global Stratotype Section and Point) section (South China), the negative shift in δ13C is estimated to have occurred 12−128 ka prior to the onset of global warming. This temporal offset is unexpected given the synchrony in changes in atmospheric CO2 and global temperature as seen in Pleistocene ice core records. The negative δ13C excursion is explained by the addition of emission of isotopically light CO2 and CH4 from thermogenic heating of organic carbon-rich sediments by Siberian Trap sill intrusions. However, the observed time lag in the δ13C and δ18O shifts questions the generally assumed cause-effect relationship between emission of thermogenically produced greenhouse gases and global warming. The onset of temperature rise coincides with a significant enrichment in Hg/TOC (total organic carbon) ratios arguing for a major volcanic event at the base of the extinction interval. Whether global warming was a major factor for the Late Permian mass extinction depends on the duration of the extinction interval. Warming only starts at the base of the extinction interval, but with the extinction encompassing a time interval of 60 ± 48 ka, global climate warming in conjunction with temperature-related stressors as hypoxia and reduced nutrient availability may have been one of the major triggers of the most devastating biotic crisis in Earth history.

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