Generally arid conditions that pervaded much of Europe and North America during the late Triassic were interrupted by a wet monsoonal climatic phase during Middle and Late Carnian times. Extensive fluviatile sandstones deposited at this time throughout the region, occur within a thick sequence of playa-lake mudstones. The sandstones occasionally contain kaolinite, suggesting a humid climate. An extreme δ13C depletion in a shallow marine sequence of this age in Israel has been interpreted as evidence for an influx of freshwater. A widespread change from carbonates to clastics in marine sequences at this time may also be climate-related. Water-course cave systems in limestone areas exposed during the late Triassic indicate high levels of runoff during the Middle and Late Carnian.
The marine invertebrate fauna shows a significant turnover at the end of the Early Carnian. The terrestrial fauna and flora were relatively unaffected at this time but subsequently diversified prior to a major biotic turnover at the Carnian-Norian boundary. These periods of biotic change appear to be synchronous with the onset and cessation of a Carnian humid phase.
The change to a monsoonal climate during this interval has been documented over more than 90° of longitude between 5° and 50° north of the Triassic equator. It may have been caused by rising atmospheric CO2 levels due to volcanism associated with the incipient dispersal of Pangaea.