Asteroid impact, not volcanism, caused the end-Cretaceous dinosaur extinction

Alfio Alessandro Chiarenza*, Alex Farnsworth, Philip D. Mannion, Dan J Lunt, Paul Valdes, Joanna V Morgan, Peter A. Allison

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)
110 Downloads (Pure)


The Cretaceous/Paleogene mass extinction, 66 Ma, included the demise of non-avian dinosaurs. Intense debate has focused on the relative roles of Deccan volcanism and the Chicxulub asteroid impact as kill mechanisms for this event. Here we combine fossil-occurrence data with paleoclimate and habitat-suitability models, to evaluate dinosaur habitability in the wake of various asteroid-impact and Deccan volcanism scenarios. Asteroid-impact models generate a prolonged cold winter that suppress potential global dinosaur habitats. Conversely, long-term forcing from Deccan volcanism (CO2-induced warming) leads to increased habitat suitability. Short-term (aerosol cooling) volcanism still allows equatorial habitability. These results support the asteroid impact as the main driver of the non-avian dinosaur extinction. In contrast, induced warming from volcanism mitigated the most extreme effects of asteroid impact, potentially reducing the extinction severity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17084-17093
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number29
Early online date29 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2020


  • dinosauria
  • extinction
  • end-Cretaceous
  • Chicxulub
  • Deccan


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    Sadaf R Alam (Manager), Steven A Chapman (Manager), Polly E Eccleston (Other), Simon H Atack (Other) & D A G Williams (Manager)

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