Thursday, 20 February, 2020


Researchers Explain What Happened When Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Hit Earth

Researchers Explain What Happened When Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Hit Earth Researchers Explain What Happened When Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid Hit Earth
Kristine Garrett | 11 September, 2019, 06:27

That finding supports a theory that the asteroid impact vaporized the sulfur-bearing minerals present at the impact site and released it into the atmosphere, where it wreaked havoc on the Earth's climate, reflecting sunlight away from the planet and causing global cooling. Initially, the site of the impact was shallow ocean, less than 30 metres deep.

The asteroid triggered a tsunami that towered several hundred metres, dumping rock and dirt back in the crater at a tremendous rate - around 130 metres (425 feet) of material was deposited in just a single day, preserving an environmental record of the area in and around the crater in the first minutes and hours after impact.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on September 9 and builds on earlier work co-led and led by the Jackson School that described how the crater formed and how life quickly recovered at the impact site.

The new research showed scientists that the impact "created a very big tidal wave that washed across this continent, and really changed the face of the planet in that location - or, really, changed the face of the planet overall entirely", Pitts said. The Chicxulub crater is located offshore from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Now, a large team of scientists led by eggheads at the University of Texas, Austin, in the U.S. reckon they have uncovered the rubble that rushed in to pack the gaping hole after the asteroid struck.

The catastrophe not only decimated the dinosaurs, leaving only birds to carry their legacy, but also annihilated various forms of life from flying reptiles called pterosaurs to coil-shelled nautilus relatives called ammonites. Upon impact, fires broke out, with trees and plants thousands of miles away igniting. As the water from the sea rushed back into the hole, it created a layer of melted stone over the layer of accumulated rock at the bottom of the crater.

"We fried them and then we froze them", he said in a statement. Inside the crater, researchers found charcoal and a chemical biomarker associated with soil fungi within or just above layers of sand that shows signs of being deposited by resurging waters. The absence of sulfur indicates that the asteroid impact "vaporized" rocks forming sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere, according to the scientists.

Based on the core samples (see below), the team estimates the impactor hit with the force of 10 billion Hiroshima atomic bombs. "Not all the dinosaurs died that day, but many dinosaurs did".

Professor Joanna Morgan, from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial, who co-led the project to drill into the crater and co-authored the new study, said: "At least 325 billion metric tons of sulphur would have been released by the impact".

The vast Chicxulub crater is a remnant of one of the most consequential days in the history of life on Earth. They also found charcoal from wildfires, which along with soot, sulphur and dust blasted into the atmosphere, blocked the sun and caused global cooling.

The impact affected life far from the site.

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