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The eruptive tempo of Deccan volcanism in relation to the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary

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Science  22 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6429, pp. 866-870
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav1446

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Two timelines for extinction

The Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction that wiped out the nonavian dinosaurs 66 million years ago was correlated with two extreme events: The Chicxulub impact occurred at roughly the same time that massive amounts of lava were erupting from the Deccan Traps (see the Perspective by Burgess). Sprain et al. used argon-argon dating of the volcanic ash from the Deccan Traps to argue that a steady eruption of the flood basalts mostly occurred after the Chicxulub impact. Schoene et al. used uranium-lead dating of zircons from ash beds and concluded that four large magmatic pulses occurred during the flood basalt eruption, the first of which preceded the Chicxulub impact. Whatever the correct ordering of events, better constraints on the timing and rates of the eruption will help elucidate how volcanic gas influenced climate.

Science, this issue p. 866, p. 862; see also p. 815

Abstract

Late Cretaceous records of environmental change suggest that Deccan Traps (DT) volcanism contributed to the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary (KPB) ecosystem crisis. However, testing this hypothesis requires identification of the KPB in the DT. We constrain the location of the KPB with high-precision argon-40/argon-39 data to be coincident with changes in the magmatic plumbing system. We also found that the DT did not erupt in three discrete large pulses and that >90% of DT volume erupted in <1 million years, with ~75% emplaced post-KPB. Late Cretaceous records of climate change coincide temporally with the eruption of the smallest DT phases, suggesting that either the release of climate-modifying gases is not directly related to eruptive volume or DT volcanism was not the source of Late Cretaceous climate change.

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