Meteorite that killed the dinosaurs may have triggered underwater volcanoes

The Chicxulub impact, the meteorite that struck Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, may have caused increased volcanism across the globe, including the bottom of the ocean.

According to a new study, published this week in the journal Science Advances, the meteorite that precipitated the extinction of the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago also triggered the eruption of dozens of submarine volcanoes.

The findings reinforce the link between the Chicxulub meteorite and the eruption of India’s Deccan Traps, which many scientists believe played a role in snuffing out the dinosaurs.

To tease out any potential links between Chicxulub and global volcanism, scientists compiled a gravitational map of the planet’s ocean floor. The map helped researchers identify areas of excess rock, evidence of accelerated volcanic activity.

Scientists then surveyed these regions for gravitational anomalies — possible signatures of sudden shifts in the seafloor’s structure. Previous studies of sea floor spreading patterns allowed scientists to determine the age of different regions.

Their analysis revealed an uptick in anomalies dated to within a million years of the Chicxulub meteorite, suggesting seismic waves set off by the impact may have triggered the eruption of magma from mid-ocean ridges around the globe.

Previous studies have shown the Deccan Traps began erupting prior to the Chicxulub impact, but that the meteorite may have encouraged increased magma flows from the volcanic ridges. The latest research supports such a chain of events.

“Our work suggests a connection between these exceedingly rare and catastrophic events, distributed over the entire planet,” Leif Karlstrom, a professor at the University of Oregon, said in a news release. “The meteorite’s impact may have influenced volcanic eruptions that were already going on, making for a one-two punch.”

While the findings don’t prove a meteorite-triggered volcanism killed the dinosaurs, the work does highlight the global nature of interrelated catastrophes.





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