PureInsight | December 23, 2002
According to recently published research from the University of Arizona (UA), a fast-moving asteroid or comet struck the earth 65 million years ago, causing catastrophic fires in southern North America, the Indian subcontinent and most of the equatorial part of the world. The research was conducted by David A. Kring of the University of Arizona and Daniel D. Durda of the Southwest Research Institute, and was reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research. [1,2].
Since 1990 UA scientists have used computerized simulations to model this global catastrophic strike, which is believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaur and hypothesized to be Earth's greatest-ever mass extinction of species.
"We've added more detail in re-evaluating the extent of the wildfires," Kring said. "Our new calculations show that the fires were not ignited in a single pulse, but in multiple pulses at different times in different places around the world." "We still do not know the moving orbit of the striking object (planet). Perhaps the fires were due to the strike."
Their highly detailed simulation model suggests that the mysterious wildfires on Earth started in the days immediately following the strike. This catastrophe was of such a magnitude that at least 75 percent of the planet's plant and animal species did not survive to see the following Cenozoic period.
According to their study, a possible cause of the devastating fires was the debris from the impact of the strike that was lofted far beyond the Earth's atmosphere. Raining back down over a period of several days like trillions of meteors, the debris heated the atmosphere and surface temperatures so intensely that ground vegetation spontaneously ignited.
The collision was extremely energetic, possibly 10 billion times more powerful than the nuclear bombs that flattened Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. According to the simulation model, 12 percent of the impact debris was even launched into the orbits of the other planets of our solar system. Furthermore, because of Earth's rotation, the returning debris ignited fires all over the world.
The study of pre-historical catastrophes such as this meteor strike is significant. Despite the current level of science and technology, mankind remains helpless when faced with such a suddenly arising natural disaster. For example, in 2000 an asteroid came close to colliding with Earth. Scientists now acknowledge that if the collision had occurred, the human race would have been wiped out.
From the view of evolution, many geologists claim that the wildfires 65 million years ago marked both the end of the Mesozoic Period and the beginning of the Cenozoic. This ascertation is controversial because of the subsequent appearance of mammals. Even modern scientific theories have a difficult time explaining how the disaster might have caused the new species to unexpectedly appear. As an explanation, some scientists have viewed this as another example of the elimination of a pre-historical culture, similar to the fall of the Mayan civilization and the vanishing of the ancient country of Loulan.
List of references:
1.Kring, David A.; Durda, Daniel D. Trajectories and distribution of material ejected from the Chicxulub impact crater: Implications for post impact wildfires. J. Geophys. Res. - Planets. 30 August 2002