The cause of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction is vigorously debated, owing to the occurrence of a very large bolide impact and flood basalt volcanism near the boundary. Disentangling their relative importance is complicated by uncertainty regarding kill mechanisms and the relative timing of volcanogenic outgassing, impact, and extinction. We used carbon cycle modeling and paleotemperature records to constrain the timing of volcanogenic outgassing. We found support for major outgassing beginning and ending distinctly before the impact, with only the impact coinciding with mass extinction and biologically amplified carbon cycle change. Our models show that these extinction-related carbon cycle changes would have allowed the ocean to absorb massive amounts of carbon dioxide, thus limiting the global warming otherwise expected from postextinction volcanism.
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