Penn State geoscientists have just made the first true bio-geospatial analysis of extinction patterns caused by the Yucatan impact 65 million years ago. What does this mean, exactly? -They managed to make the first determinations about where, how badly, and for how long specific places on Earth were devastated by the impact.
Let me tell you, it ain’t pretty.
Sure, we’ve known for quite some time now that the ~5-mile wide rock responsible for the Chicxulub crater caused or contributed to a mass extinction (end of the dinosaurs, etc.,) from which it took life eons to recover, but now we have a real picture:
- For instance, the asteroid was found to have entered the atmosphere from the southeast and traveled northwest to its point of impact in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Researchers also found that in addition to the surface devastation from pervasive fires and high temperature debris, nanoplankton (a major ocean food source) disappeared for 40,000 years afterward.
- Near darkness persisted in the region for nearly six months as a result of the impact, and toxic metals distributed by the meteor prevented ocean life from recovering for a full 270,000 years.
Ouch. The sooner we venture off-world and develop strategies for both manipulating near-Earth asteroids as well as for developing extraterrestrial human settlements, the better.
Jupiter has been hit twice in the last 20 years by comets large enough to destroy Earth’s biosphere entirely. We can’t say we haven’t been warned.