The giant asteroid which hit the Earth around 66 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaur population had a much more devastating and climate-altering impact on our planet than previously thought. Although previous studies say that the asteroid impact resulted in dramatically cooling the Earth's temperatures, researchers now suggest that the climate shift may have been even more severe than previously imagined.
The nearly 12km wide asteroid slammed into the Earth near what is now the Yucatán Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico and is widely cited as the key reason for the mass extinction of dinosaurs. The asteroid impact is believed to have caused rapid and extreme climate change, devastating the Earth's plant life and marine biosphere. Previous studies claim that the asteroid impact resulted in the emission of certain gases such as sulphur and carbon dioxide, which then dramatically altered the Earth's climate.
A previous study estimated that the asteroid impact resulted in the emission of massive amounts of sulphur, which in turn led to the Earth's temperatures dropping by around 26 degrees.
However, according to a new study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, around three times more sulphur may have entered our planet's atmosphere than previously thought. In other words, the asteroid likely made the Earth's weather a lot colder than previously thought.
"Many climate models can't currently capture all of the consequences of the Chicxulub impact due to uncertainty in how much gas was initially released," said Joanna Morgan, a geophysicist at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom and co-author of the new study. "We wanted to revisit this significant event and refine our collision model to better capture its immediate effects on the atmosphere."
In the new study, researchers made use of a computer code to simulate the pressure from shock waves created by the asteroid's impact to determine the amount of gas released in various impact scenarios.
Based on the angle of the impact, researchers estimated that around 325 gigatons of sulphur and 425 gigatons of carbon dioxide were released into the Earth's atmosphere. In comparison, the previous study estimated that around 100 gigatons of sulphur and 1,400 gigatons of carbon dioxide were released as a result of the impact.
The new findings could help researchers better understand how the Earth's climate underwent dramatic changes in the aftermath of the asteroid-hit.
According to Georg Feulner, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who was not involved in the new research, said that the findings could provide new insights on how the Earth's ecosystem, including plant life and its marine biosphere were radically altered in the aftermath of the asteroid collision, Phys.org reported.
"The key finding of the study is that they get a larger amount of sulfur and a smaller amount of carbon dioxide ejected than in other studies," Feulner said. "These improved estimates have big implications for the climatic consequences of the impact, which could have been even more dramatic than what previous studies have found."