An analysis of the rocks mined at the site of the collapse of the giant asteroid during dinosaurs mass extinction allowed researchers to restore the course of events in the first 24 hours after it hit the earth’s surface.
They confirmed the theory that the asteroid collision caused forest fires, tsunamis and threw a huge amount of sulfur into the atmosphere, which blocked sunlight and provoked global cooling, which ultimately laid the foundation for the great mass extinction. A detailed report of scientists on the subject is available in the scientific journal, PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
How Did Dinosaurs Die?
Sean Gulick, the lead author of the study from the University of Texas at Austin (USA), restored the first moments of the catastrophic collapse and revealed that after the fall of the asteroid, the Earth was in the long period of global cooling. First, the dinosaurs were burned and then frozen. Not all of them died that day, but the death toll was enormous.
It is believed that about 66 million years ago, an asteroid with a diameter of up to 10 kilometers fell on the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula, forming a Chicxulub impact crater 20 kilometers deep and 180 kilometers in diameter.
The impact energy reached 100 teratons of TNT (10 billion atomic bombs). This event led to the emission of 15 trillion tons of ash and soot into the air, as a result of which photosynthesis slowed down for several years, the penetration of sunlight to the surface was difficult, the temperature on land dropped by almost 30 degrees, and during the day it was dark on Earth-like on a moonlit night. All this served as the reason for the beginning of the Cretaceous – Paleogene extinction — one of the five “great mass extinctions.”
New evidence for this theory came from the analysis of particles of charcoal and rock brought by the tsunami, and the absence of sulfur in the cores produced at the place of impact at a depth of 500 to 1300 meters below the seabed. All these markers are chapters in the annals of those events, which offer the most detailed overview of the consequences of the disaster.
The blast from the fall set trees and plants on fire around thousands of kilometers from the epicenter caused a powerful tsunami that swept across the continent. In the crater, the research team discovered charcoal and a chemical biomarker associated with soil fungi inside or just above the sand layer. This suggests that the charred landscape was “drawn” into the crater by the retreating tsunami waters.
However, one of the most important findings of the study is that there is no sulfur in core samples, although the rocks surrounding the impact crater are extremely rich in it. This confirms the theory of the evaporation of miners at the site of impact and their rise into the atmosphere, where they damaged the Earth’s climate, reflecting sunlight and causing global cooling.
According to scientists, as a result of the impact, at least 325 billion tons of material was raised, which is about four orders of magnitude more than during the eruption of the Krakatau volcano in 1883, which cooled the Earth by an average of five years.
Sean Gulick concluded that although in the first minutes the impact of the asteroid led to mass destruction at the regional level, it subsequently provoked global climate change, eventually responsible for dinosaurs mass extinction and most of the other animals that lived on our planet that time.