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Combustion of fossil organic matter at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-P) boundary

Mark C. Harvey, Simon C. Brassell, Claire M. Belcher and Alessandro Montanari
Combustion of fossil organic matter at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-P) boundary
Geology (Boulder) (May 2008) 36 (5): 355-358


Recognition of elevated concentrations of aciniform soot in Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-P) boundary sediments worldwide led to the hypothesis that global-scale forest wildfires could have been generated by the K-P boundary bolide impact and might have contributed directly to the extinction event. The wildfires are estimated to have injected 10 (super 13) t of CO (sub 2) into the atmosphere, resulting in an interval of greenhouse warming. Yet minimal amounts of charred plant remains and abundant noncharred material occur in various K-P boundary locations across North America. This refutes the inference that wildfires occurred on a global scale, and requires an alternative explanation for the aciniform soot. Here we describe significant concentrations of carbon cenospheres in K-P boundary sediments from New Zealand, Denmark, and Canada. Carbon cenospheres are thought to derive solely from incomplete combustion of pulverized coal or fuel-oil droplets, which suggests that the impact may have combusted organic-rich target crust. The Chicxulub impact crater is located adjacent to the Cantarell oil reservoir, one of the most productive oil fields on Earth. This indicates that abundance of organic carbon in the Chicxulub target crust was likely to have been above global mean values. But even if we discount Chicxulub's organic-rich locality, the global mean crustal abundance for fossil organic matter is more than adequate to account for observed concentrations of both carbon cenospheres and aciniform soot, therefore making the global wildfire hypothesis unnecessary.

ISSN: 0091-7613
EISSN: 1943-2682
Serial Title: Geology (Boulder)
Serial Volume: 36
Serial Issue: 5
Title: Combustion of fossil organic matter at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-P) boundary
Affiliation: Indiana University, Department of Geological Sciences, Bloomington, IN, United States
Pages: 355-358
Published: 200805
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
References: 33
Accession Number: 2008-088519
Categories: Stratigraphy
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Annotation: With GSA Data Repository Item 2008089
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 1 table
N42°00'00" - N84°00'00", W141°00'00" - W52°00'00"
N36°30'00" - N47°30'00", E06°30'00" - E19°00'00"
S47°30'00" - S34°30'00", E166°30'00" - E178°30'00"
N36°00'00" - N43°45'00", W09°30'00" - E04°30'00"
N55°13'00" - N55°25'00", E12°05'60" - E12°25'00"
Secondary Affiliation: Royal Holloway University of London, GBR, United KingdomColdigioco Geological Observatory, ITA, Italy
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States. Reference includes data supplied by the Geological Society of America, Boulder, CO, United States
Update Code: 200827
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