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Chicxulub impact and Deccan traps flood basalts collectively killed dinosaurs

Scientists from University of Florida and University of Michigan reconstructed Antarctic Ocean temperatures variations that support the idea that the combined impacts of volcanic eruptions and an asteroid impact brought about one of the biggest mass extinctions on Earth.

Researchers used the new technique called the carbonate clumped isotope paleothermometer to analyse the chemical composition of fossil shells in the Antarctic Ocean.

This analysis shows that ocean temperatures rose approximately 14 degrees Fahrenheit. This event is linked to two previously documented warming events that occurred near the end of the Cretaceous Period, viz.

  1. Volcanic eruptions in India
  2. Impact of an asteroid or comet on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico

This coincided with Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary, which spans 3.5 million years at the end of the Cretaceous and the start of the Paleogene Period. This K-Pg boundary is widely associated with the mass extinction of dinosaurs.

Evidence for impact theory

K-Pg boundary contains iridium that is also found in asteroids, meteorites and comets, bolstering the theory that an asteroid killed most of the creatures of the Cretaceous Period.

Impact of the twin events:

  1. Chicxulub impact would have produced a sunlight-blocking dust cloud that killed much of the plant life and reduced global temperature, called an impact winter.
  2. Deccan traps flood basalts event released volcanic gases, particularly sulfur dioxide, during the formation of the traps and led to an average drop in temperature of 2 °C.
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