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Experts studying the dinosaur-killing asteroid that impacted our planet around 65 million ago made a fascinating discovery. While the impact of the supermassive asteroid was catastrophic, what followed after, conclude scientists, was a complete darkness that ‘destroyed’ our planet even further.
The asteroid that annihilated the dinosaurs also sent Earth into two years of darkness.
The results of the new study could help scientists understand what could happen to our planet in the event of a nuclear war.
The asteroid that impacted our planet some 65 million years ago could have catapulted our planet in total darkness, causing a winter that is believed to have lasted for two years, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).
This would have halted photosynthesis, drastically cooling the planet, and contributed to the massive extinction that marked the end of the dinosaur era.
Scientists estimate that more than three-quarters of Earth’s species, including all non-avian dinosaurs, disappeared after the mass extinction of the Cretaceous-Paleogene.
According to the new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) with the support of NASA and the University of Colorado Boulder, conclusive evidence shows that the extinction occurred at the same time a large asteroid—around 10 kilometers in diameter—impacted our planet in what is today known as the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. What followed after, say scientists was complete darkness that ‘destroyed’ our planet even further.
“An asteroid impact is a very large disturbance — not something you would usually see when modeling future climate scenarios,” said NCAR scientist Charles Bardeen, who led the study.
“So the model was not intended to handle this and, as we went along, we had to modify the model so it could manage some of the event’s impacts, such as the increasing warming of the stratosphere by over 200 degrees Celsius.”
The massive impact would have set off massive earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.
Scientists also estimate that the force of the impact would have released rock vaporized above the surface of the Earth, where it would have condensed into small particles, known as spherules, which fell back to Earth.
These would have been heated by friction at temperatures high enough to cause global fires and incinerate the surface of our planet.
“The extermination of many of the large animals on land could have been generated by the instant consequence of the impact, but animals that survived in the oceans or those that could burrow underground or slip underwater temporarily could have survived,” added Charles Bardeen,
“Our study follows the story after the initial effects—after the earthquakes and the tsunamis and the abnormal temperatures. We wanted to look at the long-term outcomes of the amount of soot we think was created and what those values might have meant for the animals that were left.”
Bardeen added that the results of the study could help scientists see what would happen in the event of a nuclear war.
“The amount of soot generated by a nuclear war would be much smaller than we saw during the mass extinction of the Cretaceous-Paleogene. But the soot would alter the climate in a similar way, cooling the surface and warming the upper atmosphere with potentially devastating effects, ” said Bardeen.
“The amount of soot created by nuclear warfare would be much less than we saw during the K-Pg extinction. But the soot would still modify the climate in comparable ways, drastically cooling the surface and heating our planet’s upper atmosphere, with potentially devastating effects,” Bardeen concluded.
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