Flat-lying lavas outcrop in a cliff on the Kotuy river, arctic Siberia.

Flat-lying lavas outcrop in a cliff on the Kotuy river, arctic Siberia.

Over the past four days, we have boated, hiked, or boated/hiked to some amazing outcrops of the oldest Siberian Traps volcanics exposed in the Kotuy River valley. These flows and tuffs are extremely important because: (1) determining the age of these rocks would help constrain the time when Siberian volcanism began, and (2) these lavas and tuffs were erupted through and onto coals, sands, and shales–any interaction between these sediments and magmas could enrich the magmas in volatile elements. (Extensive volatile degassing from magma could link the Siberian eruption and the end-Permian mass extinction.)

The stratigraphic sections that we have been working on are super exciting because we can actually see and put our finger on the contact between the older Permian sediments and the overlying volcanics. The three kilometer-thick pile of lavas starts right there, and that’s a pretty sensational thing to be able to get up close and personal with.

We ate our lunch today (half a Clif Bar) sitting on a grassy ledge. Beyond the ledge the ground dropped precipitously 100 meters to the river below. While sitting there, surrounded by interesting rocks, we were filled with the sense that things really couldn’t get much better.


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