Not an asteroid? Scientists come up with a new version of the catastrophe that caused dinosaurs to become extinct

Yulia PoteriankoNews
The dust that flew up after the impact provoked a phenomenon similar to nuclear winter

The most common version of the cause of the extinction of dinosaurs among ordinary people is the impact of a giant asteroid into the Earth. However, scientists who continue to investigate this issue have announced that it was not the space rock itself that could have played a decisive role, but the consequences of its fall, which were felt many years later.

According to Mail Online, researchers from the Royal Observatory of Belgium, who modeled the ill-fated impact, recently shared the results of their work. According to them, a key factor in the extinction of dinosaurs could be the dust that rose into the atmosphere after the asteroid hit. It blocked sunlight, which stopped the photosynthesis of plants and led to a huge environmental disaster with mass extinction.

The new modeling showed that the amount of dust generated after the collision was about 2000 gigatons. This is 11 times the weight of Mount Everest. It could have stayed in the atmosphere for up to 15 years, causing a phenomenon similar in characteristics to the so-called nuclear winter.

The disappearance of vegetation due to lack of sunlight caused famine among many herbivorous species, including some dinosaurs. And the lack of prey had consequences for predators as well. This triggered a catastrophic mass extinction, as a result of which 75% of living beings disappeared from the Earth.

Scientists have been investigating the asteroid and its impact since 1978, when the Chicxulub crater in Mexico was discovered. Currently, the leading theory is that sulfur from the asteroid's impact or soot from the global forest fires it caused darkened the sky and plunged the world into a long, dark winter. This cost the lives of the vast majority of organisms.

However, a study published on Monday confirmed an earlier hypothesis: dust kicked up by the asteroid caused the impact winter. To do this, scientists examined particles found at an important site of fossils in Tanis, North Dakota, USA. This place is located 3000 kilometers from the crater. However, in the sediments on the site of an ancient lake, the remains of animals that probably died immediately after the collision are well preserved.

The researchers said the dust particles ranged in size from 0.8 to 8.0 micrometers. This microscopic size allows them to remain in the atmosphere for up to 15 years. By inputting this data into climate models similar to those used for the modern Earth, the researchers determined that dust likely played a much more important role in the mass extinction event than previously thought. According to their estimates, of all the material that entered the atmosphere after the asteroid hit, this dust accounted for a serious 75%. Sulfur accounted for 24%, and soot only 1%.

Sean Gulick, a geophysicist at the University of Texas at Austin who was not involved in the study, told AFP that the research was another interesting attempt to answer the question of what caused the impact winter. However, in his opinion, the work of his colleagues still does not provide a definitive answer. The scientist also emphasized that finding out the causes and course of the last mass extinction in the world is important for understanding the past and the future. "We may be able to better predict our own mass extinction, which we are probably in the middle of," Guliсk said.

Earlier, OBOZ.UA told how the rain, which lasted for almost 2 million years, is connected with the heyday of dinosaurs.

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