Carnian Pluvial Event

The CPE in the Triassic
-255 —
-250 —
-245 —
-240 —
-235 —
-230 —
-225 —
-220 —
-215 —
-210 —
-205 —
-200 —
Axis scale: millions of years ago

The Carnian Pluvial Event (CPE) was a major change in global climate and biotic turnover that occurred during the Carnian,[1] early Late Triassic, ≈230 million years ago.[2] The base of the CPE is marked by a ≈4‰ negative shift in carbon stable isotopes (δ13C) of fossil molecules (n-alkanes) from higher plants and total organic carbon.[3] A ≈1.5‰ negative shift in oxygen stable isotopes (δ18O) of conodont apatite suggests a global warming.[4][5] Major changes in organisms responsible for calcium carbonate production occurred during the CPE.[6][7][8] A halt of carbonate sedimentation is observed in deep water settings of Southern Italy that was probably caused by the rise of the carbonate compensation depth (CCD).[9] High extinction rates occurred among ammonoids, conodonts, bryozoa, and crinoids.[1] Major evolutionary innovations followed the CPE, as the first occurrence of dinosaurs, lepidosaurs, an expansion of coniferous trees, calcareous nanofossils and scleractinian corals.[2][3][10]


The Carnian Pluvial Event is sometimes called the Carnian Pluvial Episode and is also known as "Reingrabener Wende" (meaning Reingrabener turnover),[11] or "Raibl event".[12]

Climate during the Carnian Pluvial EventEdit

The arid climate of the Late Triassic was interrupted by the markedly more humid conditions of the Carnian Pluvial Event (CPE). Evidences of increased rainfall during the CPE are 1) the development of palaeosols (histic and spodic soils) typical of tropical humid climate with a positive water budget throughout the year; 2) hygrophytic palynological assemblages that reflect a vegetation more adapted to humid climate; 3) siliciclastic sediment input into the basins due to increased continental weathering and runoff; 4) the widespread presence of amber. However, wet climate was periodically interrupted by dry climate.[13]

Oxygen isotope analyses performed on conodont apatite show a ≈1.5‰ negative shift. This negative δ18O excursion suggests a global warming of 3 to 4 °C during the CPE and/or a change in seawater salinity.

Biological turnoverEdit

Extinctions: conodonts, ammonoids, bryozoa, and green algae were severely hit by the CPE and experienced high extinction rates. But most noticeable were the radiations of, among other groups, dinosaurs, calcareous nanofossils, corals, and crinoids.

Dinosaurs: the radiometric age of the most ancient-known dinosaurs (Eoraptor) found in the Ischigualasto Formation of Argentina dates back to 230.3 to 231.4 million years ago. This age is very similar to the minimum age calculated for the CPE (≈230.9 million years ago).

Calcareous nanofossils: the first planktonic calcifiers occurred just after the CPE and might have been calcareous dinocysts, i.e., calcareous cysts of dinoflagellates.

Effects on carbonate platformsEdit

At the onset of the CPE a sharp change in carbonate platform geometries is recorded in western Tethys. High relief, mainly isolated, small carbonate platforms surrounded by steep slopes, typical of the early Carnian, were replaced by low-relief carbonate platforms featuring low-angle slopes (i.e., ramps). This turnover is related to a major change in the biological community responsible for calcium carbonate precipitation (i.e. carbonate factory). The highly-productive, mainly bacterial-dominated biological community (M-factory) which action led to the carbonate production on high-relief platforms was substituted by a less productive mollusc-metazoan-dominated community (C-T factories). In the South China block the demise of carbonate platforms is coupled with the deposition of sediments typical of anoxic environments (black shales). These anoxic levels are often fossil Lagerstätten, very rich in crinoids and reptiles (e.g. Ichthyosaurs).


Eruption of Wrangellia flood basaltsEdit

The recent discovery of a prominent δ13C negative shift in higher plants' n-alkanes suggests a massive CO2 injection in the atmosphere-ocean system at the base of the CPE. The minimum radiometric age of the CPE (≈230.9 Ma) is similar in age to the basalts of the Wrangellia large igneous province (LIP). In the geological record, LIP volcanism is often correlated to episodes of major climate changes and extinctions, which may be caused by pollution of ecosystems with massive release of volcanic gases such as CO2 and SO2. Large release of CO2 in the atmosphere-ocean system by Wrangellia can explain the increased supply of siliciclastic material into basins, as observed during the CPE. The increase of CO2 in the atmosphere could have resulted in global warming and consequent acceleration of the hydrological cycle, thus strongly enhancing the continental weathering. Moreover, if rapid enough, a sudden rise of pCO2 levels could have resulted in acidification of seawater with the consequent rise of the carbonate compensation depth (CCD) and a crisis of carbonate precipitation (e.g. demise of carbonate platforms in the western Tethys).

Uplift of the Cimmerian OrogenyEdit

According to an alternative hypothesis, the Carnian Pluvial Event was a regional climatic perturbation mostly visible in the western Tethys and related to the uplift of a new mountain range, the Cimmerian Orogen, which resulted from the closing of a tethyan northern branch, east of the present European continent. The new mountain range was forming on the southern side of Laurasia, and acted then as the Himalayas and Asia do today for the Indian Ocean, maintaining a strong pressure gradient between the ocean and continent, and thus generating a monsoon. Summer monsoonal winds were thus intercepted by the Cimmerian mountain range and generated strong rain, thus explaining the switch to humid climate recognized in western Tethys sediments.[4][7]


  1. ^ a b Simms, M. J.; Ruffell, A. H. (1989). "Synchroneity of climatic change and extinctions in the Late Triassic". Geology. 17 (3): 265–268. doi:10.1130/0091-7613(1989)017<0265:soccae>;2.
  2. ^ a b Furin, S.; Preto, N.; Rigo, M.; Roghi, G.; Gianolla, P.; Crowley, J.L.; Bowring, S.A. (2006). "High-precision U-Pb zircon age from the Triassic of Italy: Implications for the Triassic time scale and the Carnian origin of calcareous nannoplankton, lepidosaurs, and dinosaurs". Geology. 34 (12): 1009–1012. doi:10.1130/g22967a.1.
  3. ^ a b Dal Corso, J.; Mietto, P.; Newton, R.J.; Pancost, R.D.; Preto, N.; Roghi, G.; Wignall, P.B. (2012). "Discovery of a major negative δ13C spike in the Carnian (Late Triassic) linked to the eruption of Wrangellia flood basalts". Geology. 40 (1): 79–82. doi:10.1130/g32473.1.
  4. ^ a b Hornung, T.; Brandner, R.; Krystin, L.; Joachimski, M.M.; Keim, L. (2007). "Multistratigraphic constrains in the NW Tethyan "Carnina Crisis"". New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science Bulletin. 41: 59–67.
  5. ^ Rigo, M.; Joachimski, M.M. (2010). "Palaeoecology of Late Triassic conodonts: Constraints from oxygen isotopes in biogenic apatite". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 55 (3): 471–478. doi:10.4202/app.2009.0100.
  6. ^ Keim, L.; Schlager, W. (2001). "Quantitative compositional analysis of a Triassic carbonate platform (Southern Alps, Italy)". Sedimentary Geology. 139 (3–4): 261–283. doi:10.1016/s0037-0738(00)00163-9.
  7. ^ a b Hornung, T.; Krystin, L.; Brandner, R. (2007). "A Tethys-wide mid-Carnian (Upper Triassic) carbonate productivity crisis: Evidence for the Alpine Reingraben Event from Spiti (Indian Himalaya)?". Journal of Asian Earth Sciences. 30 (2): 285–302. doi:10.1016/j.jseaes.2006.10.001.
  8. ^ Stefani, M.; Furin, S.; Gianolla, P. (2010). "The changing climate framework and depositional dynamics of Triassic carbonate platforms from the Dolomites". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 290 (1–4): 43–57. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2010.02.018.
  9. ^ Rigo, M.; Preto, N.; Roghi, G.; Tateo, F.; Mietto, P. (2007). "A rise in the Carbonate Compensation Depth of western Tethys in the Carnian: deep-water evidence for the Carnian Pluvial Event". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 246: 188–205. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2006.09.013.
  10. ^ Jones, M.E.H.; Anderson, C.L.; Hipsley, C.A.; Müller, J.; Evans, S.E.; Schoch, R. (2013). "Integration of molecules and new fossils supports a Triassic origin for Lepidosauria (lizards, snakes, and tuatara)". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 12: 208. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-208. PMC 4016551. PMID 24063680.
  11. ^ Schlager, W.; Schöllnberger, W. (1974). "Das Prinzip stratigraphischer Wenden in der Schichtfolge der Nördlichen Kalkalpen" (PDF). Österreichische Geologische Gesellschaft. 66–67: 165–193.
  12. ^ The Geologic Time Scale 2012 Volume 2. Elsevier Science Ltd. 2012-08-14. p. 690. ISBN 978-0444594259.
  13. ^ Mueller, Steven; Krystyn, Leopold; Kürschner, Wolfram M. (January 2016). "Climate variability during the Carnian Pluvial Phase — A quantitative palynological study of the Carnian sedimentary succession at Lunz am See, Northern Calcareous Alps, Austria". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 441: 198–211. doi:10.1016/j.palaeo.2015.06.008. ISSN 0031-0182.