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Deccan Traps are an large area of igneous rock that is located on the Deccan Plateau in west-central India. They are among the largest volcanic features on Earth. They consist of multiple layers of solidified flood basalt that are more than 2,000 m thick and cover an area of 500,000 square km. They have a volume of 512,000 km3. The Deccan Traps formed at the end of the Cretaceous period(60 million years ago). The traps are quite significant because of the vast wealth of fossils that have been found in them.
The volcanic action that formed the Deccan Traps released sulfur dioxide and contributed a drop of global temperature of 2°C. The gas and temperature drop played a major role in the destruction of up to 17 families. This mass extinction was about 8 times greater than normal. Because of its magnitude, the gases released during the formation of the Deccan Traps was thought, at one time, to have played a role in the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event(K-T event), but the Chixiculb meteoroid has been proven the main stressor for that event.
Scientists believe that the eruption that created the Deccan Traps was associated with a deep mantle plume. The Reunion hotspot, the area of long-term eruption, is suspected of both causing the Deccan Traps eruption and opening the rift that once separated the Seychelles plateau from India. Spreading of the seafloor at the boundary between the Indian and African Plates subsequently pushed India north over the plume. The plume now lies under Reunion island in the Indian Ocean. Another theory is that a large impact crater exists in the sea floor off the west coast of India(Shiva crater). This crater has also been dated at sixty-five million years, which puts it at the K-T boundary. It has been suggested that the impact may have been the triggering event for the Deccan Traps and the acceleration of the Indian plate.
We have written many articles about the Deccan Traps for Universe Today. Here’s an article about the giants impacts near India that might have killed the dinosaurs, and here’s an article about lava rocks.
We’ve also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast all about planet Earth. Listen here, Episode 51: Earth.