Earth on ABC – In tonight’s first episode, we explore one of the darkest periods in Earth’s history: the worst mass extinction the planet has ever seen, when as much as 90% of all species died, 252 million years ago.

This extraordinary moment in Earth’s history took life to the brink wreaking havoc and destruction on an unprecedented scale. But somehow, life found a way to bounce back, and a new geological era ushered in the age of the dinosaurs.

The story begins with a massive volcanic eruption: the Siberian Traps eruption lasted for 2 million years and created a huge lava field, an area the size of Australia. Life in the immediate vicinity was no doubt vaporized, but the fossil record reveals a bigger mystery – a strange ‘line of death’ in rock formations all over the world that indicates almost all life dying out, no matter how close it was to the lava field.

We uncover what the latest science reveals about the aftermath of the eruption, and the terrifying series of events that led to the global mass dying. It’s a stark cautionary tale of how rapid climate change can cause whole ecosystems to collapse, but the fossil record also hints at Earth’s miraculous powers of reinvention.

We discover clues in rocky mountain ranges to one of the greatest deluges in the planet’s history – a downpour lasting on and off for almost 2 million years that transformed conditions and led life to bounce back in extraordinary style, with the rise and eventual domination of the dinosaurs.

Production credit: A BBC production.

Earth on ABC and ABC iview – Tuesday 23 January, 2024 at 9.00pm

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Earth on ABC