Dual magma plumes fueled volcanic eruptions during final days of dinosaurs

The Western Ghats hills at Matheran in Maharashtra, India

Dual magma plumes contributed to mega-sized volcanism around the time of the dinosaur die-off 66 million years ago, a new study suggests. The remnants of this volcanic activity, known as the Deccan Traps, are in what is now India.

Nicholas/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Not one but two rising plumes of magma from deep within the Earth fueled the titanic volcanic eruptions that marked the final days of the dinosaurs, new research suggests. The Deccan eruptions in what is now India, some scientists argue, helped wipe out most animal and plant species around 66 million years ago, including all nonbirdlike dinosaurs.

The geologic source of that volcanism has been unclear. Geodynamicists Petar Glišović and Alessandro Forte of the University of Quebec in Montreal hit rewind on a 3-D digital mock-up of Earth’s current internal structure. That simulation revealed that two magma sources contributed to the Deccan volcanic eruptions, the researchers report in the Feb. 10 Science.

Magma from the plumes fed those eruptions for a 10-million-year window that peaked strongly around 68 million years ago, the researchers write, roughly the same time as the extinction event.

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