Asteroid vs. Volcanoes: New Modeling Shows What Made the Earth Uninhabitable for Dinosaurs

Asteroid Strike Animation

Modeling of the Chicxulub asteroid impact 66 million years ago shows it created a world largely unsuitable for dinosaurs to live in.

The asteroid, which struck the Earth off the coast of Mexico at the end of the Cretaceous era 66 million years ago, has long been believed to be the cause of the demise of all dinosaur species except those that became birds.

However, some researchers have suggested that tens of thousands of years of large volcanic eruptions may have been the actual cause of the extinction event, which also killed off almost 75% of life on Earth.

Now, a research team from Imperial College London, the University of Bristol and University College London has shown that only the asteroid impact could have created conditions that were unfavorable for dinosaurs across the globe.

Asteroid Strike

An individual of Ankylosaurus magniventris, a large armoured dinosaur species, witnesses the impact of an asteroid, falling on the Yucatán peninsula 66 million years ago. Not even its large size and thick armour sheltered its kind from the violence of this cosmic disaster. Credit: Fabio Manucci

They also show that the massive volcanism could also have helped life recover from the asteroid strike in the long term. Their results are published today (June 29, 2020) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Lead researcher Dr. Alessandro Chiarenza, who conducted this work whilst studying for his PhD in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial, said: “We show that the asteroid caused an impact winter for decades, and that these environmental effects decimated suitable environments for dinosaurs. In contrast, the effects of the intense volcanic eruptions were not strong enough to substantially disrupt global ecosystems.

“Our study confirms, for the first time quantitatively, that the only plausible explanation for the extinction is the impact winter that eradicated dinosaur habitats worldwide.”

The asteroid strike would have released particles and gases high into the atmosphere, blocking out the Sun for years and causing permanent winters. Volcanic eruptions also produce particles and gases with Sun-blocking effects, and around the time of the mass extinction there were tens of thousands of years of eruptions at the Deccan Traps, in present-day India.

To determine which factor, the asteroid or the volcanism, had more climate-changing power, researchers have traditionally used geological markers of climate and powerful mathematical models. In the new paper, the team combined these methods with information about what kinds of environmental factors, such as rainfall and temperature, each species of dinosaur needed to thrive.

They were then able to map where these conditions would still exist in a world after either an asteroid strike or massive volcanism. They found that only the asteroid strike wiped out all potential dinosaur habitats, while volcanism left some viable regions around the equator.

Asteroid Strike from Space

An asteroid 10 to 12 km wide hit central America 66 million years ago. Credit: Gabriele Chiarenza

Co-lead author of the study Dr. Alex Farnsworth, from the University of Bristol, said: “Instead of only using the geologic record to model the effect on climate that the asteroid or volcanism might have caused worldwide, we pushed this approach a step forward, adding an ecological dimension to the study to reveal how these climatic fluctuations severely affected ecosystems.”

Co-author Dr. Philip Mannion, from University College London, added: “In this study we add a modeling approach to key geological and climate data that shows the devastating effect of the asteroid impact on global habitats. Essentially, it produces a blue screen of death for dinosaurs.”

Although volcanoes release Sun-blocking gases and particles, they also release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. In the short term after an eruption, the Sun-blockers have a larger effect, causing a ‘volcanic winter’. However, in the longer term these particles and gases drop out of the atmosphere, while carbon dioxide stays around and builds up, warming the planet.

After the initial drastic global winter caused by the asteroid, the team’s model suggests that in the longer term, volcanic warming could have helped restore many habitats, helping new life that evolved after the disaster to thrive.

Dr. Chiarenza said: “We provide new evidence to suggest that the volcanic eruptions happening around the same time might have reduced the effects on the environment caused by the impact, particularly in quickening the rise of temperatures after the impact winter. This volcanic-induced warming helped boost the survival and recovery of the animals and plants that made through the extinction, with many groups expanding in its immediate aftermath, including birds and mammals.”

Reference: “Asteroid impact, not volcanism, caused the end-Cretaceous dinosaur extinction” by Alfio Alessandro Chiarenza, Alexander Farnsworth, Philip D. Mannion, Daniel J. Lunt, Paul J. Valdes, Joanna V. Morgan and Peter A. Allison29 June 2020, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2006087117

7 Comments on "Asteroid vs. Volcanoes: New Modeling Shows What Made the Earth Uninhabitable for Dinosaurs"

  1. I love science news but you have been sending me crap forever – stop it!!

  2. Clyde Spencer | June 29, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Reply

    How did crocodilians, and other reptiles, indeed even the ancestors of birds, survive the decimated ecosystem? Surely, these other Cretaceous predators must have had diets similar to the meat-eating dinosaurs! What is different about dinosaurs that they found the post-asteroid environment uninhabitable, but species that were competitors for their ecological niche survived?

  3. Volcano ash is good for our environment, it helps to produce clouds and rain. Meteors are dangerous because their effects can last for decades and cause much more damage. However listen up everyone! WARNING! WARNING! WAKE UP EVERYBODY! We have a major problem on Earth. And why the hell am I the only one on Earth sounding the alarm? Satellite photos from the 1960’s till now has shown that global warming has been going on since the 1960’s when jet engine airplanes started flying and China started their massive polluting industrial buildup. Take a look at the 1960’s photos and you can see how the weakest part of ice, which is permafrost, was the first thing that started melting in mass around Russia and China area of the planet. There is photo evidence of this warmer melted water from the melting permafrost draining into the area around Russia and China’s coastline. The photos show warmer melted permafrost water over time traveling into the Arctic Sea and the area around Russia’s side of the North Pole where, in the photos, shows how that warmer water has since the 1960’s been melting the ice of the North Pole. In the photos you can see how that warmer melted permafrost water traveled from Russia and over the years till this day has been not only melting the North Pole ice but has resulted in warming the waters of the world through the water circulation systems of the world. This also resulted in the ice and permafrost to be melting around the whole Arctic area. This melting of all the permafrost and ice on the Earth will go on till it is all gone unless we immediately shut down all the ways us humans are warming up the Earth. Russia has been for years purposely trying to heat up their part of the world with multiple military drills and military parades across Russia so that the heat from all those planes and military hardware can warm up Russia. Russia has already built numerous boat ports along its northern border so that Russia could profit from a ice free North Pole so that northern Russia’s waterways could become the new transportation from China to Europe and elsewhere thus replacing the need for many to have to use the Panama Canal to move ships. Now we have a hot weather system over Russia’s Siberia region that has sent temperatures in the North Pole to the 90’s, something that never has been seen before! Something strange is going on in that part of the planet that is warming up that part of the Earth more rapidly than normal. Either China or Russia or India or all of them together are doing something to put massive amounts of hot air into the atmosphere. If we don’t stop everyone everywhere from warming the planet then it could take another 15-20 years for the North Pole’s ice to be completely melted and about 15-25 years for the South Pole to be completely free of ice. When all that happens then the Earth will be in a new uncharted era where I’m sad to say not one of you even know what that will be! For then will be the unavoidable, irreversible, frightening, chaotic new world which those still alive will have to face! There is no plan to stop this from happening! There is not even any discussion of this! Trump and the Republicans don’t even believe in global warming and won’t do anything to stop it but will do a lot to make global warming worse! NASA and ALL the scientist of the world don’t talk about any of this. They are interested in taking our money and looking at other planets instead of figuring out how we are to live on Earth!
    So folks, since no one has offered any plan to avert this catastrophe you will face but me let me present it to you and hopefully you will wake up before you all die a horrific death of some kind in the future as the Earth takes it’s last breath of existence as we know it. Folks, we have to entirely change our lifestyles, our way of living. We have to stop flying turbo jet planes of all kinds first! These jets are gigantic vacuum machines that are vacuuming up, heating up and polluting enough air to fill the AstroDome every 2 minutes. There are about 90,000 jet engine plane flights a day worldwide and that doesn’t include military aircraft worldwide. Figuring on the low side that there is about a 3 hour flight for every flight we are flying jet planes that are sucking up, burning up and polluting enough air to fill about 194,400,000 Astrodome size stadiums! And that figure doesn’t even include military flights of any kind from any country worldwide! Add that in and you will probably be looking at about 230,000,000 stadiums of hot polluted air produced daily worldwide! The heat from these jet planes ranges from 800 to 1200 degrees for passenger planes and 1200 to 2500 degrees for military planes. The Earth’s atmosphere cannot cool itself off or provide enough moisture in the atmosphere to make clouds after an everyday onslaught of more than about 230,000,000 Astrodome size stadiums of hot, polluting air every day attacking it! Now you may look at the sky and think that there is unlimited space up there in the sky for all the heat and pollution to go to every day. But think about this. We have people who climb up to the highest mountains in the world and when the get up to the top of the mountains they are at the area of the Earth where clouds are formed. So if they were to look down after being on top of the mountain they would see that it isn’t that far from the ground to where the clouds form around the Earth. So don’t think that you can heat up the atmosphere without any problem because when you look for the top of that highest mountain you realize that the Earth’s clouds can easily be affected by what we do. So it’s important to save the Earth’s clouds as much as we can in every way we can because clouds are actually the Earth’s umbrella from the Sun. Without clouds the Sun would roast the Earth into being like Mars and Venus which is exactly what will happen in about 20 to 30 years when there is no more ice or snow on Earth to make cold weather and no more clouds because the sun evaporates all moisture from the Earth, be it moisture as water on Earth or water vapors molecules in the sky, which results in there being no more clouds worldwide or too few clouds to make rain which is where we are at in parts of the world. The Earth produces rain when there is a certain amount of moisture in the air. Jet planes are sucking up, heating up and polluting more than 230,000,000 Astrodome size stadiums of air a day in the upper atmosphere where clouds are formed. If you decrease the moisture content of the atmosphere then it surely won’t rain. Yet the Sun will continuously evaporate water from the Earth if it’s Sun rays can reach that water. Clouds and trees are the ONLY thing on Earth that can prevent the Sun from reaching the Earth and heating up the Earth. Where there is no cloud cover the Earth survived and stayed cooled because the Earth also had massive amounts of trees worldwide which is nature’s way of providing a way for the Sun’s rays to not heat areas of the Earth where there is no cloud cover. Where there is no trees or little or no vegetation then the Sun turns that part of the world into a desert. That is the way this planet atmospheric system works. Years ago the Earth was mostly covered in trees and vegetation. Since 1800 we humans change the world’s environmental makeup with our lifestyles which resulted in us humans cutting down most of those trees and vegetation worldwide. We replaced it with buildings and pavements that heat up and pollute the Earth. We fly gigantic flying vacuum machines daily into our sky’s sucking up the Earth’s much needed moisture. If we stopped flying jet engine airplanes and went back to only flyng propeller airplanes then at least we would stop the lost of atmospheric moisture which would lead to more clouds which would lead to more rain which would lead to more ability for the Earth to grow more trees and vegetation which is something we need to grow in mass worldwide now while we have the chance to do so. Once the Sun has melted the North and South Poles as well as all snow and ice glaciers worldwide then the ice age is over and a worldwide drought starts happening which means it most certainly will be too late if we don’t do something to create clouds now so to stop the Sun’s rays from heating up the Earth. The Earth can take a lot of abuse, be it from volcanic explosions to meteor strikes that blast tons of dust into the skies thus blocking out the sun for decades or more. Perhaps a good way to create more clouds is to take volcano ash and somehow on a windy day shoot the volcano ash into the upper atmosphere where it can travel in the jet streams around the world where it can then hopefully pick up moisture and create clouds and eventually rain! If volcanoes have been shooting up volcano ash for millions of years and creating clouds and or provide cover from the Sun then why don’t we manually shoot some Volcano ash up there too and get rain or shade! But nature can only do so much. It can’t overcome the abuse we humans have made it endured. Nature is geared to work a certain way. If you mess with the way nature works then you create a new way that nature works. This planet was set up to work one way. We can’t keep doing bad things and not see bad results. This planet is our only home. I am an old man who will soon be dead and gone. I won’t have to face the nightmares that all of you in the future will soon have to face. So get out there and VOTE Trump and the Republicans out of political office so that you can have politicians in office who WILL do something about global warming as well as all the other problems that we have! But I want to try in every way possible to help my son and granddaughter and ALL of you to avert this life ending future you all will be facing. I will be in the near future posting more about this subject. I will also show you ways that you will need to do in order to survive somehow in the future when then world’s new weather system replaces the one we have today. Every day our planet is at a battle with the Sun for it’s survival and all that live on it! When the clouds are gone and there is no more rain then there will be soon thereafter massive deaths worldwide of all species eventually as the Sun wins the battle with the Earth and turns our paradise Earth into another Mars and Venus, planets that the Sun also won in the Sun’s battle of life or death! The Sun can give us life or the Sun can roast us to death! Don’t mess up this planet and make it so that the Sun destroys the Earth. Make it so that you have as many clouds as you can in the sky worldwide at all times. Stop flying these jet planes! LEGALLY shut down all airports in your area with massive traffic jams and airport parties! Us taxpayers paid for the airports so we can use them for whatever we want! EVERYONE PARTY at the airports! Traffic jam the airports! Have massive pedestrians partying all over which will legally jam up the airports! DO SOMETHING BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE! On my Facebook page I discuss numerous ways to live on this planet in peace and harmony with all. I show you new ways to build dwellings, stop global warming, end gun violence and much more! I’ll be making new postings on my Facebook Page about this and much more until I am here no more. Read my Facebook page of Ron McCune from Chicago, Illinois to get more info on how to avert this problem or else you will ALL die in about 20 to 30 years!

    • Clyde Spencer | June 29, 2020 at 8:47 pm | Reply

      I suggest that you get one of the plastic pill boxes with the days of the week marked on it to help you to remember to take your med’s every day. You have apparently been forgetting to take them regularly.

  4. God created world and everything about 6000 years ago.

  5. Base on Ron statement, I’m not even sure the earth will still be existance to 20-30 years to come, i tell you the truth that the world (planet earth) that we know is not thesame world (planet earth) of the 1600s or 1700s, the volcanic eruption, Earthquake, Hurricane, Flood, all these natural disasters are already being predicted by the BIBILE, making the world better or not by preventing the airpassage (jet engine aroeplane) so as to control the air pollution and shutting down airport so as to maintain the earth not to be heated by the sun if the cloud is fading and no much ice to cool the earth according to Ron, Ahh, really, i don’t see that happening either, cus the world cannot do without the movement of jet engine and aeroplanes, and also stop the movement of people and their daily economic business activities with other race of the world and it will run the world Economy down atlarge.
    surely,surely,and surely these things most come to pass, i don’t care if the scientics bring up a news that there will be a heavy storm or disaster that will hit planet Earth com next 10 or – 20 years, cus is no suprise to me if these things start happening base on Ron exclamation (feeling) and statement that will heppen for the next 20-30 years, really, if does happened, JESUS CHRIST the only SON OF GOD the has proclaim and make it clear in the BIBLE that in the last days of this world, that there will earthquake and natural disaster in differs place of the world, wars and rumours of wars, nation will rise against nation (that what we experiencing right now), kingdom against kingdom, famine, epidemic and pandemic e.g the covid-19 situation being cause by man, Lovers of money, brother against is own brother, children against their own parent and even something worst will hit the world, behold if you witness and see these things happening
    do know that the end is approching and surely all these things must come to pass and the end shall come,these are the words of JESUS CHRIST.

    well, you may be thinking I’m too religous, but I’m not, I’m just saying the facts of what the BIBLE has said it will happen.

    Our only true home is HEAVEN not on Earth, and the only way to escape all these is to accept Jesus as your Lord and Personal saviour and confess your sins to him alone, that you may recieve a genuine SALVATION of washing away of sin by the blood of the Lamb (JESUS CHRIST) and SANTIFICATION in pure in heart. obey his word and his commandment, be faithful to him, and meditate his words (THE BIBLE) day and night, and also be prepare for his coming that you may be rapturable with the saint on the last days.
    this is the only way of escaping the chaos and calamity that await the world who do not accept JESUS CHRIST. like i always say, Heaven is our only home not Earth, and JESUS CHRIST is the only way and the key through HEAVEN.

    Believe me or not, these things must surely come to pass, it maybe Tomorrow, 10, 20, 30,40, or 50years, or anytime the world shall end.

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