Prior to the time of the close approach of the Moon, a look at life on Earth gives us a picture of life, which was very stable, yet over billions of years slowly evolving. There is a general principle of geography which says that given a lack of uplift, ultimately through erosion, a landmass will level itself toward sea level. This peneplain model proposes that without an energy source fueling continental collision and uplift, erosion will reduce continents to flat erosional plains. This seems to be the predominant environment of the early pre-approach age. The Permian was a primordial world of low energy with little tectonic activity and a relatively fixed set of continents with all the land concentrated in one large continent. (26) Tectonic activity seems to have been slowly running down, plate tectonics as we now know it today seems not to have existed. (28).
The pre-capture world was one of broad flat plains with sluggish rivers and large coastal/estuary environments. Great forests and swamps which were the standard environment of the carboniferous period evolved into a drier more continental Permian period. Mountains were apparently few, lost either to erosion or isostatic equilibrium (27). This is the period from which much of our carbon based energy system comes; oil, gas and coal are all important deposits of this period. Huge quantities of carbon rich organic material were retrieved from the atmosphere and placed into storage in the planetary crust. The environment evolved fairly steadily over long epochs of time from the Pre-Cambrian era in which life first evolved throughout the Paleozoic era (543-251 million years ago) up to the end of the Permian period (the last period of the Paleozoic era). A general age of 290-251 million years ago is accepted for the Permian period. Thus the Paleozoic period represents the pre-capture world, a primordial time.
A Cataclysmic Event
Then something happened, something big. As the Moon’s orbit slowly circled inwards tidal heating began to recharge the Earth’s tectonic battery. The Earth began to experience disturbances to its axial tilt, mixing and turnover in its oceans, a stripping away of its upper most atmosphere and the direct expression of tidal heating with the eruption of the massive Siberian flood basalts. The dynamics of the approaching Moon was more than life on Earth could cope with. The extinction of life which occurred at the Permian boundary was correspondingly the most devastating event in the evolution of life on Earth.
The modern world, as we know it, of active geologic uplift, earthquakes, ice caps, and seasons is the direct result of the Moon’s close approach. The shifting of the Earth’s axis and the commencement of continental drift are major long-term outcomes of the lunar close approach. The climate and structure of the Earth thus began a long term irreversible trend toward the modern world.
Today we still have a very active planet and all this activity is the final stage of what began hundreds of millions of years ago.
Tilting of the Axis and Seasonality
The spinning of a well-balanced top or gyroscope is analogous with planetary rotation. As the Moon neared the Earth changes would occur to the tilt axis of the Earth. The wobbles of the Earth’s spin are known today to be part of climate change and our modern seasons are primarily caused by the tilt of the axis.
The Moon’s orbit is not around the Earth’s equatorial plane as might be expected. The Moon’s orbit is closer to that of the ecliptic which is the (1.5 dg.)plane in which the Earth moves around the Sun. The Moon spins on a nearly vertical axis (1.5 degrees) unlike the Earth which is tilted 22 1/2 degrees to the ecliptic.
The Moon is caught in a tug o war between the Earth and Sun. The melding of the Earth, Sun and Moon’s orbits has caused the Earth to tilt upon its axis over time. This change began in earnest at the Permian-Triassic Boundary. A minor component of season is the elliptic orbit of the Earth, which brings us closer or further from the Sun. These two factors work in conjunction to cause seasonal fluctuations, which the Earth experiences over time.
Fossil records indicate that the trees of the carboniferous age lacked the seasonal growth rings of modern trees. The absence of annual rings in the trees of the coal forests permits the conclusion that the plants experienced no annual rhythm. Evidently there was no occasion for this adaptation in the coal forests, on account of the unusually uniform climate.
Seasonal effect may also be confused with extreme wet/dry periods, which appear to be a standard “savanna” environment of the primordial age of the Paleozoic period. Not until after the close approach, did we see evidence of the beginning of a trend toward seasonal “tendency” on land.
The Breakup of Pangaea
The rapid re-energization of the tectonic system on Earth literally tore continents apart and sent them spreading around the globe. Landmasses radiated from a central point, still represented today by the continent of Africa. Antarctica was perpetually captured in a polar vortex as such; its former neighbor India was wrenched loose and sent hurdling north to slam into the Asian continental mass (This is the reason for the mighty Himalaya ranges).
Typical dating of plate movement begins somewhere in the Permian-Triassic time frame and the rate of spreading is generally assumed to be constant. By the observed distances between known rifts on opposite sides of mid-ocean ridges a rate of 2″ per year is found.
Conversely a Close Approach Lunar Model proposes that initial spreading started rather suddenly and later than is commonly assumed. Once it started, it increased in pace until achieving a maximum during the Jurassic period and has since slackened to the pace we see today. This has significance in regards to precise dating of species separation and explaining some biological diversity questions related to species that were separated by continental movement yet seem to be relatively similar. (31)
The continents, it is proposed, were actually connected much more recently than is now presumed. This more rapid rate of movement cuts into the generally accepted length of time since initial separation of the continents. The actual beginning of plate separation started later than generally accepted, but rose to a pitch only to begin a slow winding down until the present. (32)
This allows for a shorter actual time of separation between related species, which were divided into two distinct populations by the opening of seaways. A rapid break up of the landmasses with eventual slowing to today’s observed rates, allows for better correlation of observed duration of time in which animals evolved independently of their ancestors upon the resulting continents.
“The world was changing of that there could be little doubt. The end of the Triassic very probably marks the beginning of the end of Gondwanaland and Laurasia, with the inauguration of physical changes of overwhelming importance that were to determine the evolutionary directions that would take place among the Earth’s living inhabitants.” (33)
Did Land Bridges Exist?
The fact that the continents were in contact with each other later than commonly believed answers a thorny problem. A hypothesis was developed prior to the tectonic revolution, which accounted for this situation with long land bridges across the oceans. This model shows, however, to what extent science would go to try and overcome this anomaly. A Close Approach Lunar Model can account for this situation with a simple answer. The rate of energy funneled into the system has changed with time. The time of continental separation can be reduced on account of the faster rate of spreading. Thus, there is no time scale problem with the evolution of species and the drift of continents.
Ironically, the land-bridge hypothesis has some merit in this new model. Since landmasses separated later than typically believed, rising sea levels caused the first observed separation of species. Some form of land bridge contact may have existed initially, since a bridge system, of sorts, would remain along existing mountain chains. These flooded mountain chains would remain above the rising ocean as it crested the continental shelf. Not until later when the continental mass separated and true ocean basins formed did the separation become complete. These bridges would not be the great ocean-spanning land bridges, but an isthmus, which was a lasting link prior to the complete separation, similar to the Isthmus of Panama today.
The Siberian Traps
Volcanically speaking the impact of the close approach of the Moon was of staggering long-term proportion. Even today the volcanic activity caused by the closer Moon is a substantial part of our dynamic biosphere. During the terminal Permian this activity led to the beginning of a series of massive flood basalts and laccolith intrusions (34,35). These flood basalts are often compared to the mare on the Moon (36). (The timing of crustal extension and the eruption of continental flood basalts)
Traps is a Swedish term used to describe the stair stepped appearance of continental flood basalts. Continental flood basalts cover huge areas and can be thousands of feet deep. They are different than the lavas associated with Earth’s volcanoes. Flood basalts form large flat “floods” of basalt which build on top of each other building layer upon layer. The Siberian Traps, the greatest known flood basalt on Earth, was unprecedented. The Siberian traps and Permian extinction essentially happened at the same time
The flood basalts mirror the pattern of dissipation of tidal heating energy. As tidal heating energy waned the heat source for flood basalts slackened as well. Through the Mesozoic Period, flood basalts continued on Earth but at a decreasing rate.