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Volcanoes Played A Lesser Role In Dinosaur Extinction Than Previously Thought

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A particular theory might not be as big of a contributor to dinosaur extinction as we might have thought.

Researchers at the University of Leeds have posited that continental flood basalts — the term used to describe massive global output of gases and particles sent into the Earth's atmosphere due to asteroid impacts and volcanic activity — would not necessarily have caused enough damage to alter the planet's atmosphere and topography in the irreversible manner in which it supposedly did.

"At the time when the dinosaurs reigned, numerous long-lasting eruptions took place over the course of about a million years," explained the university's School of Earth and Environment professor Anja Schmidt. "These eruptions, called 'continental flood basalts' were not like volcanic eruptions we often see today, with lava gushing from the ground like a curtain of fire."

To put the events into perspective, she elucidated that these eruptions — which sometimes lasted years or even decades, had periods of intermittent inactivity, and that "[t]he lava produced by an eruption of average intensity would have filled 150 Olympic-size swimming pools per minute."

Schmidt's research team was able to assert its claim by using a computer simulation to estimate the amounts of gas and dust were released into the ether as a byproduct from the flood basalts, measuring how the amount would alter the Earth's climate and derive data from there.

However, what the scientists garnered from their simulation was that the basalt floods would have had to continue for hundreds of years, uninterrupted, for them to have a lasting effect: as per their data, the researchers found that while the Earth would have cooled by about 4.5 degrees Celsius, it only stayed that way for about 50 years before reverting back to normal.

"We now need to better understand how long both the individual eruptions and the periods without volcanic activity lasted," Dr. Schmidt added. 

Via: Phys.org

Photo: Berit Watkin | Flickr

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