PureInsight | June 24, 2002
Michael Lucas, a researcher at Florida Gulf Coast University, believes that the kinetic energy created by asteroid and comet impacts with the Earth might be useful in explaining some mass extinction events. His research results show that the severity of four extinction events during the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras can be correlated with the total kinetic energy released by impacts that occurred during the geologic age of the mass extinctions (1). He presented his geological findings on April 4 at the Geological Society of America's North-Central Section and Southeastern Section Joint Meeting in Lexington, Kentucky.
Lucas analyzed the kinetic energy released by 31 of the largest impact structures from the last 248 million years and correlated them with the Norian, Tithonian, Late Eocene, and K-T extinction events. The impact energy released during the geologic ages of each extinction event is at least 10 million megatons of TNT equivalent yield per geologic age. Lucas believes that this could represent a minimum impact energy required to cause a global-scale mass extinction. His research results also reveal that synchronous multiple impact events could also have caused extinctions.
Approximately ten percent of the impact structures on Earth are doublets or twin structures, suggesting "a nearly simultaneous impact of binary asteroids or fragmented comets," he said. An example of a twin impact structure would be the Kara / Ust-Kara twin impact structure in Russia which is about 73 million years old (2).
In the very long history of the universe, it may be fairly common for such uninvited guests as asteroids and comets to collide with the Earth causing mass extinctions. For instance, binary asteroids, 2000 QW7, caused by the gravitational effects of Mars and Jupiter, hurtled past Earth in the year 2000, barely missing us. It came by, completely undetected until five days before it flitted past the Earth. After recovering from the shock, scientists began to celebrate the miss because if the asteroid had collided with the Earth, it would have wiped out the entire human population (3). Another asteroid, 2002 MN, about 120 meters long came within 75,000 miles of Earth on June 14 of 2002, but wasn't detected until three days later. If it had collided, it could have devastated an area of some 800 square miles (4). No matter how advanced today's technology is, human beings still have no control over their future. All catastrophes and disasters in the past and future are already arranged (5).