Scientists have found evidence that a massive comet measuring 62 miles hit Earth about 12.800 years ago. The resulting firestorm is believed to have been greater than the one which caused the dinosaurs to go extinct. According to the researchers, the dust clouds created from the fire shrouded the Earth which led to a mini ice age.
The study, which was split into two papers and published in the Journal of Geology, labeled the event an “extraordinary biomass-burning episode and impact winter”. This incident is believed to have occurred shortly after the end of an ice age and put into motion one of the largest environment-burning episodes in over 120 thousand years.
The researchers claim that there are fragments of the 62-mile comet still circulating our solar system to this day. More so, the firestorm that engulfed the Earth was able to burn approximately 9 percent of the planet’s biomass. The smoke was so dense that it would have prevented sunlight from reaching the surface.
Earth’s temperature began to drop again, causing plants to wither off and die, effectively severing off food supplies for animals. The resulting mini ice age also allowed melting glaciers to reform. This event was so powerful that it even changed ocean currents. Researchers estimate that the resulting ice age lasted for a thousand years.
According to Adrian Melott, study author and an astrophysics professor at the University of Kansas, there were a number of different chemical signatures pointing to an ancient firestorm.
“—carbon dioxide, nitrate, ammonia and others—all seem to indicate that an astonishing 10 percent of the Earth’s land surface, or about 10 million square kilometres, was consumed by fired.” Professor Melott said in a statement.
Melott and his team also examined pollen levels, which prompted them to speculate that the fire burned off acres of pine forests. The burnt trees were later replaced with poplar trees.
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