Asteroid that killed the dinosaurs had help from volcanoes, study says

Oct 5, 2015

By Amina Kahn

Many scientists have long blamed a single culprit in the sudden and violent mass extinction that took out the dinosaurs: an asteroid that came screaming out of the skies some 66 million years ago. But it turns out that this asteroid may have had an accomplice.

Researchers studying ancient lava flows in present-day India have also implicated the volcanic eruptions that they say turned massively deadly around the same time that the asteroid hit – eruptions that, together with the impact, would have filled the air and covered the earth with toxic fumes and dust, driving countless species to extinction.

The findings, described in the journal Science, bind together two long-held theories about what killed off the dinosaurs (and many other species).

“This is pouring gasoline on the debate,” said Henry Melosh, a planetary scientist at Purdue University who was not involved in the paper.

The Deccan Traps in India feature layers upon layers of volcanic rock and are the long-solidified remains of one of the world’s truly enormous volcanic eruptions.


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6 comments on “Asteroid that killed the dinosaurs had help from volcanoes, study says

  • @OP – Researchers studying ancient lava flows in present-day India have also implicated the volcanic eruptions that they say turned massively deadly around the same time that the asteroid hit – eruptions that, together with the impact,

    People are aware of that tsunamis can be generated by volcanism or large meteor impacts, but perhaps some overlook that impacts can also cause shocks and waves in the fluid parts of the Earth below the crust, flexing the crust which floats on these layers.

    Any such waves, would certainly shake up tectonic boundaries, faults, and unstable volcanic structures, in a similar way to polar storms shaking up floating sea-ice!

    Incidences of mining collapses tend to peak during the time of the cyclical maximum flexing of the crust caused by spring-tides!



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  • Roedy
    Oct 6, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Is there any possibility an asteroid whacked the earth so hard it triggered volcanoes?

    It all depends on the size of the asteroid. A really big one could punch right through the crust!

    If we look at impact craters on some of the moons of the Solar System, they are massive. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herschel_%28Mimantean_crater%29

    Volcanoes and faults build up pressure until something breaks, so any shock could trigger some earthquakes or volcanic events.



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  • I didn’t think this was new. The dinosaurs (etc.) didn’t die out “overnight”, they were already on the wane for at least a couple of million years before the impact.

    I thought the consensus (or the nearest thing to one) was that the Deccan Traps were already driving the extinction rate up, and the impact was the coup de grace.

    The “new” finding seems to be that the impact made the Deccan Traps even worse. Which is hardly surprising, and I wouldn’t have thought controversial.



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