Shock-induced devolatilization of calcium sulfate and implications for K-T extinctions

Guangqing Chen, James Tyburczy, Thomas J. Ahrens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The devolatilization of calcium sulfate, which is present in the target rock of the Chicxulub, Mexico impact structure, and dispersal in the stratosphere of the resultant sulfuric acid aerosol have been suggested as a possible mechanism for the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinctions [1,2]. We measured the amount of SO2 produced from two shock-induced devolatilization reactions of calcium sulfate up to 42 GPa in the laboratory: CaSO4+SiO2→CaSiO3+SO3↑CaSO4→CaO+SO2↑+ 1 2O2↑. We found both to proceed to a much lower extent than calculated by equilibrium thermodynamic calculations. Reaction products are found to be ∼ 10-2 times those calculated for equilibrium. Upon modeling the quantity of sulfur oxides degassed into the atmosphere from shock devolatilization of CaSO4 in the Chicxulub lithographic section, the resulting 9 × 1016 to 6 × 1017 g (in sulfur mass) is lower by a factor of 10-100 than previous upper limit estimates, the related environmental stress arising from the resultant global cooling and fallout of acid rain is insufficient to explain the widespread K-T extinctions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)615-628
Number of pages14
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Shock-induced devolatilization of calcium sulfate and implications for K-T extinctions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this