Simulation suggests two plumes involved in producing Deccan Traps

February 10, 2017 by Bob Yirka, report

The Western Ghats hills at Matheran in Maharashtra, India. Credit: Nicholas/Wikipedia
(—A pair of researchers with the University of Florida has found evidence that suggests the formation of the Deccan Traps igneous province came about due to two eruptions from two distinct plumes. In their paper published in the journal Science, Petar Glišović and Alessandro Forte, describe how they created a computer simulation able to depict events that occurred in what is now India over 60 million years ago.

Deccan Traps is a very large igneous province located in west central India. Its existence has caused consternation among Earth scientists because of the huge amount of lava involved—too much, logic suggests, to be from a single eruption. Prior research has suggested it came about due to an eruption associated with a plume that now lies directly below Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean, approximately 66 million years ago. The eruption event that led to the creation of Deccan Traps also has historical significance—most Earth scientists believe it contributed to the decline of the dinosaurs by blocking sunlight and causing global temperatures to drop before an asteroid struck the planet, wiping them out altogether.

To gain a better perspective on what occurred during the creation of Deccan Traps, the research pair started by creating a 3-D tomography-based model that showed what the area looks like today—they then used that model to run iterations of change routines starting 2.5 million years ago that showed events that might have transpired to produce the physical geography that exists today. After selecting the best fit, the researchers ran the simulation to show what happened beginning 70 million years ago. They were surprised to discover their model showed two plumes feeding two eruptions simultaneously for approximately 10 million years—one under Réunion, as expected, and another called the Comoros plume.

The model also showed the peak occurred approximately 68 million years ago. The result was the melting and dispersal of approximately 60 million cubic kilometers of mantle. The model also suggested that the Comoros plume slowed dramatically approximately 40 million years ago, while the Réunion plume continued full force for another 20 million years. Both plumes still exist today, the researchers note, but both are extremely small compared to what they once were.

Explore further: Did dinosaur-killing asteroid trigger largest lava flows on Earth?

More information: On the deep-mantle origin of the Deccan Traps, Science  10 Feb 2017: vol. 355, Issue 6325, pp. 613-616, … 1126/science.aah4390

The Deccan Traps in west-central India constitute one of Earth's largest continental flood basalt provinces, whose eruption played a role in the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. The unknown mantle structure under the Indian Ocean at the start of the Cenozoic presents a challenge for connecting the event to a deep mantle origin. We used a back-and-forth iterative method for time-reversed convection modeling, which incorporates tomography-based, present-day mantle heterogeneity to reconstruct mantle structure at the start of the Cenozoic. We show a very low-density, deep-seated upwelling that ascends beneath the Réunion hot spot at the time of the Deccan eruptions. We found a second active upwelling below the Comores hot spot that likely contributed to the region of partial melt feeding the massive eruption.

Related Stories

Asteroid impact, volcanism were one-two punch for dinosaurs

October 1, 2015

Berkeley geologists have uncovered compelling evidence that an asteroid impact on Earth 66 million years ago accelerated the eruptions of volcanoes in India for hundreds of thousands of years, and that together these planet-wide ...

Recommended for you


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 10, 2017
Looks like on the grand scale, we just exist between catastrophes.
not rated yet Feb 11, 2017
Gilsovich and Forte must have known of earlier work by Dr Michael Ramfino of the City University of New York on the subject. He claimed the Chixcolub event range the earth like a bell and like 'coup and contra=coup' injuries to human heads, the earth is in a way the same, a meaty ball with a thin layer of bone of the outside. The contra-coup reaction was on Southern India where it was at the time in the Indian Ocean. Ideas? Watch your political comments, nervous site managers worried about government geheimestaatspolizei looking at anti administration posts no matter what our rights, which may prove to count for little now.
3 / 5 (6) Feb 11, 2017
Looks like on the grand scale, we just exist between catastrophes.

Indeed. If an asteroid doesn't get you, a flood basalt event will! Sometimes they'll overlap and you are in deep doo-doo. Still, I'd take the K-T event over the Permian-Triassic extinction any day of the week.
5 / 5 (1) Feb 12, 2017
There is an older one, the end-Ordovician Extinction.
2.6 / 5 (5) Feb 12, 2017
There is an older one, the end-Ordovician Extinction.

Yep, there are quite a few of them knocking around. Some easier to see in the geologic record than others. Even some of the 'minor' ones would not be a lot of fun.
Nice little graph here:
1 / 5 (4) Feb 12, 2017
I am more concerned about the end of the Anthropocene.
not rated yet Feb 18, 2017
All fine and dandy, but a simulation is not the same as definitive empirical evidence. Whnile it may help in terms of suggesting a few things to look for, it is no replacement for quality fieldwork and laboratory analysis.
If the traps are, indeed, the result of two different plumes breaching the lithosphere, then the lavas will have detectably different compositions.
Why aren't these guys conducting THAT research?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.