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Chicxulub asteroid impact may also have triggered volcanos

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A new theory has been published on the impact of the Chicxulub crater. iStock illustration


The asteroid impact on the Yucatán Peninsula, not only wiped out the dinosaurs but also may have set off a chain of cataclysmic volcanic eruptions, claims a divisive new study.

About 66 million years ago a six-mile wide asteroid smacked into Earth, creating the Chicxulub crater.

That released super-hot particles rained from the air causing fires across the globe and sending temperatures higher. Clouds of particles darkened the skies and cooled the Earth at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit/25 degrees Celsius for several years. Then came earthquakes close to 100 times stronger anything we’ve seen today.

It killed off three-quarters of all life on Earth, well beyond the Yucatán, where the asteroid left a giant crater.

But wait, there’s more, the new study says.

New evidence suggests the impact also triggered massive volcanic eruptions that spewed gases and particles into the air and water. A study in Wednesday’s journal Science Advances figures sometime after the asteroid crash, unusual and extra strong eruptions happened on the floor of the oceans, probably in what are now the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Researchers calculate a tremendous amount of molten rock was ejected underwater — so much that on land it would cover the entire continental United States a couple hundred feet deep or so.

“We’re showing there was a lot more going on than we thought,” said University of Minnesota geophysicist Joseph Byrnes, the study’s lead author. “We’re painting a new sequence of events.”

These underwater volcanic areas — called mid-ocean ridges — often erupt, even today. But this happened on a far bigger scale.

University of California, Berkeley geologist Paul Renne said it “illustrates how intertwined everything else is.”

Scientists are split over the findings.

“The signal that they see is really kind of feeble,” said Jay Melosh of Purdue University. “There’s something there, maybe. Whether it has to do with the impact is more questionable.”

More glimpses into that time period are coming from more research, including about giant tsunamis on what is now inland northern United States and Croatia.

Source: Associated Press

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