DINOSAUR-KILLING ASTEROID IMPACT WAS WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT
Some 66 million years ago, an asteroid struck the Yucatan peninsula in Central America, forming the Chicxulub crater and wiping out the dinosaurs in what is known as the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) extinction event. But two new pieces of research suggest that this impact was even more cataclysmic than was previously believed.
A new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters shows that up to three times as much sulphur may have been released into the atmosphere as a result of the impact than previous models have suggested. This would have led to a longer period of global cooling, which helps to explain the devastating effects on the Earth’s fauna at the time.
“Many climate models can’t currently capture all of the consequences of the Chicxulub impact, due to uncertainty in how much gas was initially released,” said the paper’s lead author Joanna Morgan, a geophysicist at Imperial College London. “We wanted to revisit this significant event and refine our collision model to better capture its immediate effects on the atmosphere.”
But perhaps more surprising are the results of a study conducted at Japan’s Meteorological Institute and Tohoku University. In a paper just published in the journal Nature, researchers Kunio Kaiho and Naga Oshima show that the high levels of soot and sulphurous gas that caused the mass extinction were a result of the rocks on the peninsula being particularly rich in hydrocarbons. Such rocks covered only around 13 per cent of the world’s surface, and had the impact occurred in a different area where the rocks were less rich in hydrocarbons, the dinosaurs would most likely have survived.
In other words, the chances of the asteroid impact killing off the dinosaurs as it did were only slightly more than one in 10. Unlucky…
If the Chicxulub meteor had shifted trajectory slightly, dinosaurs couldstill be roaming the Earth today