Scientists have come to a common consensus about events that wiped out dinosaurs from the face of the Earth, and the approximate date the events occurred. They agree a combination of a massive asteroid impact, and vast volcanic eruptions – occurring about 66 million years ago, marked the end of dinosaurs and several other creatures of ancient times.
Published in the journal Science, the scientists on Thursday stated that the space rock or asteroid that hit Earth was about 6 miles or 10 km wide – and it hit the Yucatan region of Mexico at nearly the time when a massive volcanic eruption spewed forth in India.
The combination and proximity of the two events threw dust, ash, and harmful fumes like carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the air, altering the climate and leading to the deaths of about 75% of all species on Earth in one of the worst mass extinctions to have ever occurred since creation.
Science researchers estimated that the asteroid strike must have occurred 66.04 million years ago – plus or minus 30,000 years. They also estimated the eruptions that eventually occurred in the Deccan Traps east of Mumbai region of India was already underway at a much lower intensity, but the asteroid blast accelerated and triggered it to gather momentum before erupting dust and gases that overwhelmed the climate, leading to the end of most creatures.
Scientists estimated through the dating technique used that the volcanic acceleration started within 50,000 years of the asteroid impact – but it could also have been within days, months, or years of the hit.
“Within measurement error, they’re simultaneous,” said volcanologist Loÿc Vanderkluysen of Philadelphia’s Drexel University.
“The two processes in tandem caused the extinctions,” added Paul Renne, director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center and a University of California, Berkeley geologist.
For the past 35 years, scientists have intensely debated which of the two natural disasters drove the extinction of dinosaurs and others.
“The debate has been contentious,” Renne said. “Now it’s time to stop dismissing one cause or the other. They clearly happened at the same time and both contributed.”
“An asteroid 10 kilometers across, about the size of Manhattan, hitting the Earth is traumatic enough. But what followed were the largest volcanic eruptions the Earth had seen in 60 million years. And in their wake would have come 4,000 centuries of changing climate, ocean acidification and acid rains,” Vanderkluysen added.
Scientists estimate the Deccan Trap eruptions lasted about 420,000 years after the asteroid impact, and it covered continental United States 600 feet or 180 meters deep in lava.
“We as humans wouldn’t be here if the dinosaurs had not been wiped out,” said Cal-Berkeley geophysicist Mark Richards, suggesting the end of the Cretaceous Period paved the way for mammals to dominate the land as we have it today.