The asteroid that made the dinosaurs go extinct also triggered catastrophic underwater volcano eruptions, according to a study published in the Science Advances journal.
The Earth was not a friendly place at that time. The asteroid crash caused wildfires, acid rain, global cooling, and now, apparently, also underwater volcanic eruptions, resulting in the mass extinction of about 75 percent of the world's species, including the dinosaurs.
Dinosaur Killer Asteroid Triggered Underwater Volcano Eruptions
Around 66 million years ago, a 6-mile-wide asteroid crashed into what is now Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, creating the Chicxulub crater. The cataclysmic event, after setting off earthquakes that may be near 100 times more powerful than the world has seen in recent history, caused superhot particles to fall from the sky, spreading wildfires across the Earth. The particles then blocked the sun's heat, resulting in lower temperatures by at least 45 degrees for several years.
The catastrophic chain of events led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. However, according to a new study, the asteroid crash caused one more thing: massive underwater volcanic eruptions.
The new study by University of Minnesota's Joseph Byrnes and University of Oregon's Leif Karlstrom, presented evidence that the earthquakes caused by the asteroid crash also triggered unusual and powerful volcanic eruptions on the ocean floor, in what are now the Pacific and Indian oceans. According to Byrnes and Karlstrom, the explosions ejected enough molten rock to cover the whole United States with a thickness of a couple of hundred feet.
Byrnes and Karlstrom found evidence to support their theory in the form of bumps made up of between 23,000 and 240,000 cubic miles of magma in the Pacific and Indian oceans. The bumps were created within a million years of the asteroid crash, leading the authors to the conclusion that the event caused underwater volcanoes to erupt more intensely.
Skepticism On Connection Between Asteroid Crash And Underwater Explosions
Some scientists, including University of Texas at Austin geophysicist Sean Gulick, remain skeptical about the connection between the asteroid crash and the underwater volcano eruptions.
"It's an interesting idea, but where's the model that backs up the physics that would allow that to happen?" he said.
Gulick also pointed to the findings that the increased volcanic activity happened within a million years of the asteroid crash, blurring the connection between the two events.
In any case, Byrnes conceded that further work needs to be done to link the increased volcanic activity on the ocean floor with the mass extinction event caused by the asteroid crash.