Washington: The massive dinosaur-killing asteroid that struck Earth 66 million years ago likely triggered most of the immense eruptions of lava in India known as the Deccan Traps. The asteroid that slammed into the ocean off Mexico and killed the dinosaurs probably rang the Earth like a bell, triggering volcanic eruptions around the globe that may have contributed to the devastation.
The researchers argue that the impact likely triggered most of the immense eruptions of lava in India known as the Deccan Traps, explaining the “uncomfortably close” coincidence between the Deccan Traps eruptions and the impact, which has always cast doubt on the theory that the asteroid was the sole cause of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction.
“If you try to explain why the largest impact we know of in the last billion years happened within 100,000 years of these massive lava flows at Deccan, the chances of that occurring at random are minuscule,” said team leader Mark Richards, from the University of California, Berkeley.
While the Deccan lava flows, which started before the impact but erupted for several hundred thousand years after re-ignition, probably spewed immense amounts of carbon dioxide and other noxious, climate-modifying gases into the atmosphere, it’s still unclear if this contributed to the demise of the life on Earth at the end of the age of Dinosaurs.
“This connection between the impact and the Deccan lava flows is a great story and might even be true, but it doesn’t yet take us closer to understanding what actually killed the dinosaurs and the ‘forams’,” he said, referring to tiny sea creatures called foraminifera, many of which disappeared from the fossil record virtually overnight at the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods.
Richards proposed in 1989 that plumes of hot rock, called “plume heads,” rise through Earth’s mantle every 20-30 million years and generate huge lava flows.