Monstrous tsunamis and endless earthquakes: The ravages of the asteroid that wipes out the dinosaurs

Did you think you were having a bad day? Imagine the dinosaurs, and more generally (almost) all living things on Earth, 66 million years ago, when a giant asteroid hit the planet in the worst possible place.

Because heck, the ball of rock we’re standing on lasted only a few hours before the sun returned: Two new studies have identified what they believe to be evidence of disasters as daunting as they are long.

We know some of the effects caused by the fall of this celestial body – precisely the type of deadly rock that NASA sought to destroy with its DART mission – in the Yucatan Peninsula, in Mexico, in the place marked by the famous Chicxulub crater.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, ocean acidification, a veil of dust blocking out the sun and collapsing all food chains: all of these have led, scientists say, to the extinction of almost all non-avian dinosaurs, and to the extinction of 93% of the mammals that until then prospered quietly.

Two studies, notably broadcast by New Atlas, specify some of these events. The first is the work of scientists at the University of Michigan, who simulated the tsunamis caused by the thing, comparing their data with geological data from one hundred and twenty sites around the world.

They were based on previous data, which indicated that an asteroid 14 kilometers wide would have hit the Earth at the crazy speed of 43,200 km / h. According to their models, a wall of water 4.5 kilometers high would have formed in the first minutes after the impact, before falling heavily to the surface.

Ten minutes after the impact, a giant circular tsunami, with a terrifying height of 1.5 kilometers, was said to have begun its apocalyptic journey. It would have taken only twenty-four hours to sweep the entire surface of the globe, with a power that is hard to imagine.

According to the scientists and the geological verifications of their simulations, the North Atlantic and the South Pacific were the most affected, while the disaster was somewhat less in the South Atlantic, the North Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.

Watch out for bumps

The second study was conducted by Hermann Bermudez of Montclair State University in New Jersey. Hermann Bermúdez investigated the geological consequences of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, analyzing the composition of outcrops in Colombia, Gorgonilla Island, Mexico and the United States, Alabama, Texas and Mississippi.

On the island of Gorgonilla, 3,000 kilometers from the Chicxulub crater, the Colombian discovered disturbances in the sediments that he considers to be the product of earthquakes that occurred immediately after the impact.

He also discovered glassy spherules, small glass balls fused by the force of the impact, projected into the sky and then falling to the ground, as well as tektites and microtektites.

As New Atlas explains, this layer of spherules took months to form. However, it is marked by the same type of deformations as the upper layer of sediments – mud and sand – mentioned above: according to Hermann Bermúdez, this would be proof that the earthquakes that followed the asteroid’s impact would not have stopped for weeks. if not months.

Terribly long, the tremor would also have been unimaginably powerful. The researcher thus calculates that the planet, after the impact of the asteroid, would have been hit by an earthquake with an energy of 1023 joules This is 50,000 times more than the one that devastated the Indian Ocean in 2004. With a magnitude of 9.1 on the Richter scale, it caused more than 220,000 human victims.

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