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Giant asteroid may have triggered deadly volcano eruptions

Time of Cretaceous impact coincides with rising volume of lava flows

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2:00pm, October 1, 2015
Deccan Traps with map

LAVA LAYERS  Floods of lava formed the layers of rock in India’s Deccan Traps. Scientists sampled these layers (from location marked with a box on the map) and found that an increase in Deccan volcanism occurred within 50,000 years of the Chicxulub asteroid impact and the extinction of the dinosaurs.  

The demise of the dinosaurs may have been the result of a coordinated one-two punch.

Eruption activity in a volcanic region in present-day India appears to have increased around the time of the asteroid impact that preceded the Cretaceous extinction, scientists report in the Oct. 2 Science. The close timing between the two events leads the scientists to suggest that the impact could have triggered this volcanic shift.

Scientists have debated whether volcanic eruptions assisted the Chicxulub asteroid impact in wiping out over half of the planet’s species at the end of the Cretaceous period, roughly 66 million years ago. Previous studies showed that while eruptions in western India’s Deccan Traps began millions of years before the impact, volcanic activity surged closer to the time of the asteroid collision. In the new study, researchers report that during this volcanic shift,

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