Triggering of the Largest Deccan Eruptions by the Chicxulub Impact
Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Modern constraints on the timing of the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction and the Chicxulub impact, together with a particularly voluminous and apparently brief eruptive pulse toward the end of the “main-stage” eruptions of the Deccan continental flood basalt province, suggest that these three events may have occurred within less than about a hundred thousand years of each other. Partial melting induced by the Chicxulub event does not provide an energetically plausible explanation for this remarkable coincidence, and both geochronologic and magnetic-polarity data show that Deccan volcanism was underway well before Chicxulub/K-Pg time. However, historical data show that in some cases eruptions from existing volcanic systems are triggered by earthquakes. Seismic modeling of the ground motion due to the Chicxulub impact suggests that the resulting Mw~11 earthquake could have generated seismic energy densities of at least 0.1-1.0 J/m3 throughout the upper ~200 km of the Earth’s mantle, sufficient to trigger volcanic eruptions worldwide based upon comparison with historical examples. Triggering may have been caused by a transient increase in the effective permeability of the existing deep magmatic system beneath the Deccan province, or mantle plume “head.” We suggest that the Chicxulub impact triggered the enormous Poladpur, Ambenali, and Mahabaleshwar (Wai sub-group) lava flows that may account for >70% of the Deccan Traps main-stage eruptions. This hypothesis is consistent with independent stratigraphic, geochronologic, geochemical, and tectonic constraints, which combine to indicate that at approximately Chicxulub/K-Pg time a huge pulse of mantle plume-derived magma passed through the crust with little interaction, and erupted to form the most extensive and voluminous lava flows known on Earth. This impact-induced pulse of volcanism may have enhanced the K-Pg extinction event, and/or suppressed post-extinction biotic recovery. High-precision radioisotopic dating of the main-phase Deccan lavas promise a direct test of this hypothesis.