This carbon influx was likely due to long-term eruptions from the Deccan Traps, a 200,000-square-mile volcanic province located in modern India. During the years leading up to the asteroid impact, the Deccan Traps spewed massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. The concentration of CO2 acidified the oceans, directly affecting the organisms living there.
"Our data suggest that the environment was changing before the asteroid impact," said Benjamin Linzmeier, the study's first author. "Those changes appear to correlate with the eruption of the Deccan Traps."
"The Earth was clearly under stress before the major mass extinction event," said Andrew D. Jacobson, a senior author of the paper. "The asteroid impact coincides with pre-existing carbon cycle instability. But that doesn't mean we have answers to what actually caused the extinction."