Saturday, November 11, 2017

'Minute Difference' In Deadly Asteroid's Trajectory Could Have Saved Dinosaurs

Chicxulub crater in Mexico
The asteroid impact which killed the dinosaurs would not have had the same devastating impact had it landed elsewhere on Earth, according to a new study which compares the probability of extinction at different possible sites of an asteroid strike.

Scientists believe that a mass extinction of animals, including the dinosaurs, occurred after a 9-kilometer wide asteroid struck the Earth 66 million years ago. The event created the Chicxulub crater in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and ended the Cretaceous Period of the Earth's history.

The impact heated hydrocarbon and sulfur in the Earth's rocks and caused masses of soot and sulfate particles to be released into the stratosphere, which cooled the climate by 8-10 degrees Celsius and led to the extinction of three-quarters of all species on Earth, including non-avian dinosaurs and animals which lived in warm water. Cold-water dwelling animals such as crocodiles survived the event.

According to a new study by researchers at the Japanese Meteorological Research Institute and Tohoku University, the asteroid site had an unusually high concentration of hydrocarbons and sulfur in comparison with most other places on Earth, meaning that its impact was more deadly than it would have been had it struck somewhere else.

"The probability of mass extinction occurring after an asteroid that could hit a random location on the Earth’s surface was approximately 13% when the Chicxulub-scale asteroid hit the Earth," Kunio Kaiho and Naga Oshima wrote in their paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports.

They found that soot is "likely to have been more important than sulfate as a cause of mass extinction," and that hydrocarbon-rich areas comprise just 13% of the Earth's surface. Areas which are rich in hydrocarbons and sulfur comprise just 1% of the Earth's surface.......
Chicxulub crater in Mexico

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