The Chicxulub Asteroid Determined a Global Winter

A new study reveals that the Chicxulub asteroid which wiped out dinosaurs also determined a global winter. When the asteroid collided about 66 million years ago, 80% of all the animals on our planet died. Even today, scientists still want to try to find out what caused the impact to become so deadly even for those species which were on the other side of the planet.

Apparently, new statistics and calculations indicate that the asteroid emitted some climate-changing chemicals when it collided. Those chemicals that spread all over the globe triggered a global winter. The chemicals traveled into the atmosphere, floating towards every territory on our planet. The new study was recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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The massive quantities of sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide triggered a global winter

The research shows that the asteroid was seven miles across. It released approximately 350 billion tons of sulfur dioxide together with 450 billion tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. Basically, the asteroid caused air pollution at impact, affecting the whole planet. Scientists explain that all that gas might have emerged from the collision between the asteroid and the rocks and ocean water that have vaporized.

Experts highlight the fact that the new study revealed larger quantities of sulfur dioxide and smaller amounts of carbon dioxide compared to previous estimations. Hence, the massive impact and the emission of those dangerous gases chilled the planet instead of warming it up. If the proportions would have been reversed, then the results would have also been different. More carbon dioxide and less sulfur oxide would have probably triggered a rise in temperatures.

Hence, the emission of chemicals would have triggered incredibly high temperatures, similar to the ones we experience today. In this way, dinosaurs would have experienced the same type of climate change we are facing nowadays. However, the sulfur dioxide prevalence indicated that the collision cooled the Earth. Specialists indicate that the same thing is available for sulfur dioxide today.

During a volcanic eruption, sulfur dioxide together with other particles of other chemicals rise into the atmosphere and cause the same chilling effect. When the particles reach the atmosphere, they travel around the globe. They develop clouds which reflect sunlight away from our planet and the temperatures drop.

An illustration of some dinosaurs and a massive asteroid

The chaos that followed the impact of the asteroid is responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs.

The impact was followed by a global winter

Scientists are still concerned regarding the asteroid’s collision. They do not understand how come the amount of carbon dioxide did not counteract the sulfur dioxide, at least for a bit. However, they still have to look into this problem, further analyzing the Chicxulub asteroid’s collision. Researchers believe that no matter the quantity of sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide should still have warmed Earth’s climate.

When it comes to the collision which occurred 66 million years ago, specialists indicate that chilling temperatures brought a global winter. Scientists’ calculations show that even if the production of sulfur dioxide was even lower, temperatures decreased with 47 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, scientists estimate that our planet needed at least three more decades for the temperatures to go back to where they had been before.

The new research includes scientists’ new estimates highlighting the angle at which the Chicxulub asteroid impacted our planet. The calculations rely on the drilling processes conducted by researchers on the crater that the asteroid left behind. The crater is in the ocean, situated off the coast of Mexico. Most of the theories that scientists have developed indicate that the immediate trigger of the extinction includes a climate change event.

Nevertheless, this climate link is still discussed since scientists need to analyze the asteroid’s impact in detail. For instance, other scientists claim that dinosaurs’ extinction appeared because of gigantic firestorms. Presumably, the debris that re-entered our planet’s atmosphere ignited these firestorms. There are many theories, and many scientists try to provide the most accurate explanation. However, they need to conduct further studies and bring palpable proofs.

The massive asteroid wiped out numerous species of animals together with dinosaurs

Carl Sagan and many other scientists argue that pollution and dust in the atmosphere could reach to block sunlight and cause a global winter. Now, the new study shows that this might have already happened in the past. The new models developed by researchers rely on completely new data. Researchers were excited to use the new improvements in mathematics to better understand the asteroid’s impact angle.

Even if the amounts of carbon dioxide were way larger than the sulfur dioxide ones, they did not trigger global warming. Just as a reference, we dump 40 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere every year. The asteroid’s impact triggered the emission of 420 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Scientists still scratch their heads, trying to find an appropriate explanation for this. Many of them are wondering how come that 40 gigatons of CO2 can cause the climate change effects we experience today and back then they were harmless. Higher CO2 levels did not trigger a massive temperature rise back then, about 66 million years ago.

The Chicxulub asteroid caused chaos

Anthony Martin is a professor in the department of environmental sciences at Emory University. He claims that all that sulfur from the atmosphere had reduced the incoming solar radiation, completely covering the greenhouse gas emissions. Joanna Morgan from Imperial College, London and Natalia Artmemieva from the Planetary Science Institute said that the effects of those chemicals in the atmosphere were catastrophic.

They triggered the extinction of three-quarters of all the species out there. Scientists indicate that the global winter determined bigger animals to suffer the most. Martin indicates that the new study unveils that the impact wiped out more animal and plant species than they have ever believed before. However, scientists point out that they have only developed a new model and models are not entirely correct, but they are useful.

Summing up

A global winter appears to be responsible for the mass extinction from 66 million years ago where hundreds of species of plants and animals died out, together with dinosaurs. The dangerous gases emitted at the asteroid’s impact caused chaos, forming a shield that reflected sunlight. The temperatures have severely dropped, causing numerous species of animals to disappear.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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