This double whammy - huge asteroid impact and erupting volcanoes - caused the extinction of many land and marine animals, including the dinosaurs, the team noted.

Deccan Traps is a large province located on the Deccan plateau of west-central India and one of the largest volcanic features on Earth.

The new evidence includes the most accurate dates yet for the volcanic eruptions before and after the impact.

The new dates showed that the Deccan Traps lava flows, which at the time were erupting at a slower pace, doubled in output within 50,000 years of the asteroid or comet impact that is thought to have initiated the last mass extinction on Earth.

Both the impact and the volcanism would have blanketed the planet with dust and noxious fumes, drastically changing the climate and sending many species to an early grave.

"Based on our dating of the lavas, we can be pretty certain that the volcanism and the impact occurred within 50,000 years of the extinction," explained lead researcher Paul Renne, professor of earth and planetary science and director of the Berkeley Geochronology Centre.

The geologists argue that the impact abruptly changed the volcanoes' plumbing system which produced major changes in the chemistry and frequency of the eruptions.

In the paper, they describe major changes in the Deccan Traps volcanism, which was probably 'bubbling along happily, continuously and relatively slowly' before the extinction.

The team described the findings in the journal Science.

 

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