Scientists have concluded what led to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. For a very long time, it was thought a giant asteroid smacked into the Earth and killed off a good portion of the planet’s biosphere. Now an American and European research team is adding more weight to the argument.
According to Paul Renne, the study co-author and director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center, “We’ve shown the impact and the mass extinction coincided as much as one can possibly demonstrate with existing dating techniques.” The asteroid that hit the Earth was believed to have been six miles wide, kicking up thick dust and debris that blocked out the sun for centuries. It also created mega-tsunamis and massive firestorms around the planet, killing off at least 75% of all life on Earth.
The research team has also found more evidence that the giant prehistoric crater near the town of Chicxulub in Mexico is indeed a souvenir of the rock that wiped out the dinosaurs worldwide. They have discovered that the asteroid hit the Earth 33,000 years before the extinction of the dinosaurs, rather than 300,000 years before, as originally thought. Now, 33,000 years sounds like a lot of time, but in big cosmic picture it’s a blink of an eye. The researchers came to this conclusion after conducting high-precision radiometric dating of debris near Chicxulub.
The impact of the asteroid wasn’t the sole contributor to the demise of the dinosaurs, however. Before impact, the Earth was experiencing massive climate change, creating extreme cold weather and unstable volcanic eruptions.
“The impact was clearly the final straw that pushed Earth past the tipping point,” Renne said. “We have shown that these events are synchronous to within a gnat’s eyebrow, and therefore, the impact clearly played a major role in extinctions, but it probably wasn’t just the impact.”
The impact of the asteroid is said to have resembled an explosion one billion times stronger and more lethal than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.